Two days ago a man with a history of domestic violence shot and killed two prostitutes in downtown Ogden because “he was having fantasies, wondering what it would be like (to kill someone),” reports the Standard Examiner. Only time will tell whether this man pays a debt to justice or is ruled incompetent to stand trial.

The St-Ex also reports that both of the murder victims were homeless drug addicts that sold sex to support their drug habits. A ‘street woman’ who was a friend to one of the victims describes the 42-year-old woman as “one of the most desperate hookers in the city.” She worked her trade “24/7” to support her addiction to crack cocaine, which is one of the most expensive drugs on the street. She leaves behind four children that reside with her ex-husband in Evanston, Wyoming.

The other victim, a 25-year-old woman, didn’t have to turn as many tricks because her addiction to crystal meth was cheaper to support. She apparently has borne at least one child.

It seems from the articles that many of Ogden’s ‘street women’ have spent time in jail. It is considered a courtesy among them to remember each others’ release dates.

Unlike the standard Hollywood stereotype and tales of politicians buying high-class one-night-stands to the tune of $10K, there is nothing glamorous or attractive about the lives of these women. Equally depraved are the lives of the men that purchase their wares.

The ugly trails of these women’s shattered lives lead through wretched living conditions, self loathing, debasing behavior, and the numerous broken hearts of their children, partners, parents, siblings, and other family members. Each of these women was somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister, somebody’s mother, somebody’s cousin, etc.

Some libertarians will say that the dreadful lives of women like this demonstrate the utter failure of the American war on drugs. But it’s difficult to see how legalizing crack cocaine and crystal meth would have made the lives of these women much better.

Perhaps the price would be a little lower if addicts were able to walk into their local Utah State Liquor Store and Head Shop to buy their dope. But making nasty drugs more easily accessible wouldn’t help these people bring their lives under control. Indeed, reducing the barriers to obtaining addictive drugs would arguably result in much higher rates of addiction and more shattered lives.

Some of the liberal stripe will whine that we need to spend more money on programs to help addicts. While many do benefit from addiction help programs, for whatever reason, some do not. All of the street women in Ogden have been afforded many opportunities (sometimes at the requirement of the law) to take advantage of these programs, but many still have the same problems. Simply spending more money on government programs isn’t going to help much.

One Utah radio show host this morning said that it is horrid that Ogden has a downtown area where prostitution is carried on pretty much in the open. He suggested that city officials get busy making downtown Ogden less friendly to this trade. In other words, take measures to transfer the trade somewhere else, since no extended society in recorded history has successfully eradicated the trade.

That sounds all nice and dandy. Maybe Ogden officials can get around to that issue right after they get rid of gang violence, stop drug abuse, stop domestic violence, and raise the economic status of all downtown residents to above poverty level.

Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey is in his third term of working to turn “a blighted old railroad town into an outdoor adventure mecca” (see 11-18-2007 D-News article). Not everyone is happy about this. Some would prefer to keep their nostalgic blight. Others would like to see improvements go in another direction. And others just have serious questions about the propriety of spending taxpayer dollars on costly entertainment venues.

If Godfrey is eventually successful, Ogden’s downtown district will slowly transform into an area that is more welcoming to middle (and upper) class people with some cash to spend. The nearby residential areas will transform as the market works to satisfy demand for classier living space. This will naturally push out the less savory residents and activities. But they will not go away. They will simply move elsewhere.

The murders of these street women were horrific events. The lives that they led and that others like them still lead are tragic. Legalizing recreational drugs isn’t going to improve their lot. Nor can they be forced to benefit from programs that are designed to help people in their situation. As unfortunate as some people’s choices are, their ability to make those choices can often be only temporarily abridged during jail terms. Unless they choose to change for the better, they have a ghastly road ahead of them.
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