in Houston, Texas
Strict Texas prostitution laws cost taxpayers $8 million a year
Friday, Jan 28, 2011, 09:30AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
jail cell

This year, when every line in every budget everywhere is getting a good going over, the KHOU Channel 11 News I-Team has found that strict state laws on prostitution cost taxpayers $8 million a year in state prison expenses.
In addition to offering sassy repartee about the life from some of the former businesswomen, the story estimates that taxpayers in Harris County alone are also spending roughly $2.3 million a year for the housing, care and feeding of prostitutes in the county jail. At the time of the reporting, 130 women were being held in Harris County Jail on charges of prostitution at a cost of a little less than $50 a day.

Texas is one of a handful of states - Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Illinois and Michigan are the others - where repeat prostitution offenses can mean time, and additional costs, in state prisons, KHOU reported.

State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, said the prostitution laws in Texas are tough, but did not speculate on whether a tough state budget year might warrant leniency for prostitutes as a cost-saving measure.

The I-Team found some cost savings through a Harris County program called Success Through Addiction Recovery, but only a small number of women prosecuted for prostitution since 2003 have qualified for drug treatment rather than jail time.


Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or

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Photo of a jail cell by flickr user 710928003, used via a Creative Commons license.

Saturday, 01/29/2011 - 12:53AM

This is an absolutely ridiculous waste of money and resources. I honestly do not understand how sex between two consenting adults, even if for a fee, can be considered such a serious crime. It is just SEX! They really need to focus on the pimps and those who traffic minors and leave us adults who choose to do this for a living alone. I, and many other ladies like myself, am just trying to survive. I am not a drug addict, no is forcing me to do anything I don't want to do, I don't have a pimp, I am not hurting anyone, myself included, and I am not spreading diseases. It is my body and my choice!

Saturday, 01/29/2011 - 09:21AM

For those that are truly concerned about all the child sex slave trafficking hoopla, that money would be better spent on facilities to help rescue actual victims. Cut out the stings and arrests and imprisonment of adult volunteer prostitutes and you would probably have enough money to go after the actual violent traffickers and pimps. There needs to be a better system, obviously the current laws aren't truly helping anyone as rates of prostitution continue to go up, fees are assessed and arrest records given so that women who are just trying to get the rent paid no longer have options of finding decent employment and wind up going right back to where they were. I've come up with ideas to help both sides but nobody listens to me so keep wasting money, economy is going to collapse eventually anyway.

Saturday, 01/29/2011 - 01:06PM

Good piece. I posted a reaction here.

Saturday, 01/29/2011 - 08:45PM

I second what both Tiffany and BDeveraux have said above. No one forced me either, I started in my early 40's. In fact, if you polled women in the industry you will find a great majority are between the ages of 25-50. Most of these women are not the stereotypical prostitutes the media so often want to portray. These laws such as prohibition against prostitution were created by the religious based on their religious mores. It is time for a change. Now that we have over a Trillion dollar deficit in this country, and the representatives in congress are aiming to cut funds to mental health services, education, and so on, legalizing prostitution and taxing it could help in bringing badly needed funds to the states.

Tuesday, 03/15/2011 - 04:25PM

We need to act on changing these laws. The problem is we aren't actively educating people and fighting this oppression. I just don't understand why it is wrong to go to a strip club or a massage parlor and get an "Old Fashioned" as they say. It carries literally 0 risk of disease and being single why would anyone care? I don't see this changing in the near future and it would require a guy like me to just fall into it by sheer luck and well I don't have that kind of luck. I don't understand how something that harms nobody is allowed to be against the law. Now I understand openly spreading disease, but then Nevada has an absolutely amazing system which I would love to add my opinion to if ever given the opportunity. Legalizing prostitution could allow a guy to selectively practice specific acts which present low to no risk of disease versus taking large risks with a number of lovers. Think about it this way, we don't ALL want to settle down but we ALL have needs and some of us FAR more than others. You are oppressing innocent people that are just trying to live with these laws Texas and as a Texan I want to see them changed forever so people don't have to be tortured through rampant puritanical theocracy. We must organize, we must act, we must find politicians willing to assist us.

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