2261 Market Street, #548 Governor Jerry Brown
San Francisco c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
CA 94114 Sacramento, CA 95814
October 31, 2016
Open Letter to Governor Jerry Brown
Sex workers ask California Governor Jerry Brown – do not consider Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley for CA State Attorney General
We, the Erotic Service Providers Union (ESPU), strongly request that you do not include Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley on the list of candidates for CA State Attorney General, in the event that the current Attorney General, Kamala Harris, is elected to represent California as a US Senator this November.
O’Malley has been Alameda County District Attorney since 2009, and has worked in the Alameda County District Attorney’s office since 1984. She has always tried to position herself as a champion for women, and in particular decried sexual assault and violence against women. But that rhetoric is completely contradicted by her actions – and youth, poor women, women of color, and trans women have paid the price.
She would be an awful Attorney General – and considering her for the post would do a great disservice to the people of California.
She has made very limited progress in reducing the backlog of rape kits. For example, a state audit found that half of all rape kits at the Oakland Police Department were never analyzed. In Alameda County alone, the audit found close to 2,000 untested kits, some dating back to 2001.
She has been painfully slow in investigating criminal misconduct of officers in Oakland who were involved with an underage sex worker, known as Celeste Guap. The District Attorney’s office could easily have performed its own investigation in early 2016, but has only belatedly moved to discipline officers after significant community pressure. She is far too close to police unions, and is part of an law enforcement establishment that has traditionally resisted attempts at accountability and reform.
She has also aggressively pursued sex workers and their clients, which criminalizes consensual adult intimate behavior, and creates a climate whereby sex workers are vulnerable to violence and exploitation, in many cases by the police departments under her authority (see the previous paragraph). As a result she is a named defendant in Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research Project (ESPLERP) v Gascon, the groundbreaking lawsuit, currently on appeal in the Ninth Circuit, which argues that the criminalization of sex work is fundamentally unconstitutional, is discriminatorily enforced against LGBT people, and creates barriers to HIV prevention and treatment efforts for vulnerable populations.
Her office has consistently shown poor judgment in filing criminal charges against underage women who have been caught selling sex, in direct contradiction of her public message of saving “victims”. Her claim is that it is necessary to arrest and criminalize them to force them into services. But what limited services are provided are poor, and research shows that putting young adults in jail has extremely poor outcomes for them and society. In practice, her approach is in direct contradiction to the federal Violence Against Women Act, and now SB 1322, both of which state that no one under 18 should be arrested, let alone charged, with prostitution. Other counties including San Francisco and Los Angeles have long used their discretion in not filing such charges – but she has consistently refused to do so.
She has also shown cronyism in promoting agencies such as Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR), which describes itself as the lead East Bay nonprofit in the state’s Regional Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force. But BAWAR has a darker side. In July 2016 the East Bay Express detailed how a mother seeking help for her vulnerable daughter turned to BAWAR, only to find her counsellor using his professional position to coerce her into a sexual relationship. In another case, an East Bay woman who was assaulted and raped by a repeat predator found herself accused and challenged by her BAWAR counselor, who made it clear it was her fault because she was a sex worker. These are just a few examples of civil and ethical rights violations by organizations that O’Malley supports.
O’Malley positions herself as an advocate for women, but the reality is that her actions, her closeness to police unions, and to East Bay nonprofits who directly benefit from her crusade against sex work, have greatly harmed young women, poor women, women of color, and trans women. She would be an awful Attorney General – and considering her for the post would do a great disservice to the people of California.
As citizens of California, we rely on you, our Governor, to stand up for us. Please do not include Nancy O’Malley on the list of candidates for CA State Attorney General in the event that the current Attorney General, Kamala Harris, is elected to represent California as a US Senator this November.
The Erotic Service Providers Union (ESPU) is by and for those who labor erotically to gain agency through industrial organizing for our occupational, social, and economic rights through affiliating with organized labor. Founded Nov. 2004 in San Francisco, California.