Washtenaw County's top cop won't prosecute sex workers

Washtenaw County's new prosecutor has unveiled a new department policy aimed at reducing criminal cases against consensual sex workers.

The decision to no longer pursue charges against sex workers is meant to encourage those that do work in the industry to report adjacent crimes like human trafficking and sexual and physical assault, which often go unreported due to victims' fears of being prosecuted themselves.

It's the latest in a progressive policy push by Prosecutor Eli Savit, who has also eliminated the cash bail system and says his department will no longer pursue drug cases involving marijuana or psychedelic plants.

Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit

"Today’s policy directive is, fundamentally, about reducing sex workers’ vulnerability and exploitation," Savit said in a statement. "When sex workers fear prosecution, they are less likely to report serious crime—crime like human trafficking, sexual assault, and physical assault."

Savit referenced data and recommendations in research papers published by The Lancet that show criminally charging workers in the sex industry leads to under-reporting of crimes that often come with the job.

The new policy can also lead to reducing HIV infections, Savit said.

"Indeed, a key reason for today's policy directive is that the criminalization of sex work *increases* violence & sexual assault - and makes it less likely to be reported," he tweeted early Thursday morning. "We’re making this policy very public because I want sex workers to know: Please. Report violence. Report sexual assault. Report human trafficking."

RELATED: New Washtenaw County prosecutor eliminates cash bail for those arrested

Savit first made waves as Washtenaw County's top cop when shortly after entering office, he announced his department would eliminate the cash bail system, which "treats people differently based on how much money you have in your bank account," he told FOX 2 last week. 

The reforms don't come without conditions, however. People may need to wear GPS tethers, undergo drug testing, or be put on house arrest. 

Earlier this week, he also announced plans to stop pursuing small drug offenses involving marijuana and magic mushrooms - which the city of Ann Arbor decriminalized in late 2020.