How to Stop Indoor Prostitution? Ask a Law School Dean

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Both chambers of the Rhode Island State legislature have passed bills to”crack down”on otherwise-legal indoor prostitution in that jurisdiction.  Both bills aim to penalize both prostitutes and johns, but neither bill comes close to offering any meaningful protection for women.  In the General Assembly version (here), a person found guilty of selling or buying sex faces a jail sentence of up to 6 months and a $250 fine.  For repeat offenders, the penalty goes up to 12 months in jail and a $500 fine.  The principal difference in the Senate version (here) is that the Senate bill imposes liability on landlords who knowingly permit prostitution on the premises and fail to”make reasonable effort to halt or abate such use.”

If Rhode Island were serious about stopping prostitution, the legislators should take a lesson from former Villanova Law School Dean Mark A. Sargent.  Sargent  has been implicated as a customer of a prostitution ring in Devon, Pennsylvania.  (For coverage of that story, see  here,  here and  here.)  Apparently Mr. Sargent was”patronizing”a prostitute when the house was raided by police on November 25, 2008.  Mr. Sargent abruptly stepped down from his post at Villanova (for”personal and medical reasons“) on June 29, four days before the Philadelphia Inquirer published the story detailing Sargent’s involvement.  This suggests that Sargent did not resign until he got word that the story would go public. Sargent likely thought, with good reason, that he would suffer no repercussions from being caught.  After all, the legal system usually punishes the female prostitutes, not the johns.

Want to stop prostitution?  Publish the names of the customers.

-Bridget Crawford

(cross-post from

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