But now a serious paper has been written on the effect of this change (which was reversed later in 2009):
Decriminalizing Indoor Prostitution: Implications for Sexual Violence and Public Health
The story has been picked up:
Here's Vox, Rhode Island accidentally decriminalized prostitution, and good things happened
That post concludes as follows
"Why is this research important?
"According to a 2013 estimate, prostitution is an industry that generates over $14 billion annually in the United States. That's despite the fact that it's almost universally illegal across the country, save for some regulated brothels in some parts of Nevada. (Recall that Rhode Island recriminalized sex work in 2009.)
"Despite the industry being huge and persistent, almost everything we know about decriminalizing prostitution is rooted in speculation, rather than good data.
"Prior research has been plagued by problems, like relying on small sample sizes that aren't necessarily representative of the industry. According to the authors, most of the studies that exist examine street prostitution, even though 85 percent of all sex-work activity is considered part of the indoor market.
"Sex work is a predictably fraught policy issue, because it gets entangled in matters of morality. But this study adds to a body of research that suggests criminalizing prostitution causes higher rates of victimization and unsafe practices."
And the Washington Post weighs in here, with a wider discussion of prostitution and its repugnance,
For those of you who don't know Scott Cunningham, he's a serious student of the dark side of the economy...see a previous post on his work here.