Access to Condoms in New York

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The Issue

When police stop and frisk people and find that they are carrying condoms, the officers will often confiscate or destroy the condoms. Currently, police and prosecutors in New York State can use the possession of condoms as evidence that people are engaging in the crimes of prostitution (PL 230.00) and loitering for the purposes of engaging in a prostitution offense (PL 240.37). In a state with a major free condom program and in a city with the only municipally-branded condom in the world, it is shameful that the Department of Health gives away condoms only for the New York Police Department to confiscate them from people.

No one should be forced to choose between safer sex and arrest, regardless of whether the person is engaged in sex work or profiled as such.

The practice of condoms being used as evidence is a discriminatory one that is used as part of larger stop and frisk profiling practices. The use of condoms as evidence is very much a gendered version of stop and frisk – police typically stop trans and cis women, gender non-conforming people and people (including trans and cis men) who are perceived to be gay. Also targeted are people of color and people who they perceive as dressing or acting like they are selling sex by wearing outfits the police deem as being lewd, standing or walking in public places, talking with passers-by. The practice of condoms as evidence negatively impacts indoor sex workers as well, and furthermore has the potential effect of encouraging traffickers to withhold condoms from their victims, further harming the very individuals anti-trafficking laws seek to protect. Banning the use of condoms as evidence is not a matter of condoning the sex trade – it is a common sense measure to ensure that people can protect themselves and each other from STIs, including HIV, as well as unwanted pregnancies.

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How to Take Action

 If you live in New York City, contact RedUP’s Community Organizer Emma Caterine at emma@redumbrellaproject.org or by calling 347-927-3867 to find out how you can get involved.

Stories of Condom Confiscation and Police Harassment

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Advocating in Albany: No Condoms As Evidence

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The Evidence

The following reports document the issue of condoms as evidence not just in New York, but in cities around the United States and in other parts of the world.

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