More than 40 operations in Rhode Island act as thinly-veiled brothels, reports the Bolston Globe. The “spas” are well known and largely untouchable by police and prosecutors because state law permits prostitution so long as it takes place discreetly, outside public view. Prostitution has flourished in Rhode Island, and the state has the distinction of being the only one to permit what is often referred to as indoor prostitution, a phrase that distinguishes it from streetwalkers' solicitations. (In Nevada, the practice is permitted only in certain counties.)
Legislators have repeatedly proposed banning all prostitution in the state, without success. As the number of spas has exploded in recent years, pressure has mounted for change. This year, both the House and the Senate passed separate antiprostitution bills. Legislative leaders are now trying to hammer out a compromise with the backing of Governor Donald Carcieri. The issue has drawn national attention to Rhode Island, a state that has found itself in the spotlight for a series of unflattering oddities, such as a capital mayor-turned-convicted felon, laws permitting underage strippers. The prostitution issue has proved particularly charged, raising questions of morality, women's rights, civil liberties, and quality of life.