Chicago prostitution laws

Chicago has been known for its vices since its incorporation in 1837. For quite a while, its racy nightlife was tolerated and ignored by the vast majority of law enforcement officials and city government representatives. However, the red light district in Chicago fell like many others in U.S. cities due to a reformation period. To this day, prostitution is illegal in Chicago.

History of prostitution in Chicago

During the 1800s, prostitution flourished in apartments, saloons and rooming houses. Advancing to more organized businesses by the 1900s, the Levee District established itself as “the” place for prostitution and fun in Chicago. It was one of the nation’s most infamous sex districts and produced annual profits of over $16 million, which was quite significant for the era. It is reported that the Levee housed over 1,000 operating brothels.

In 1911, The Social Evil in Chicago was published and listed all the moral depravity that occurred when prostitution was present. This publication prompted a public outcry for reformation. By 1912, the Levee was shut down by law enforcement and city officials in order to satisfy the public’s desire for cleaner living.

However, prostitution was still alive and well in Chicago. In the 1920s, cabarets, night clubs and various other establishments made arrangements with other vice syndicates and managed to prosper, without harassment from the local police. By the 1970s massage parlors, peep shows and bars featuring “live show girls” were prominent attractions for local residents and tourists, alike.

Current state of prostitution in Chicago

Despite the fact that Illinois prostitution laws apply to Chicago, which means that prostitution is illegal in the city, women still find it a profitable profession. Currently, there are possibly 4,000 women and girls who engage in acts of prostitution in off- and on-street scenarios. The sex industry employs women in massage parlors, escort services and exotic dancing establishments that allow prostitution to occur in back rooms. Various areas of Chicago, including the suburbs, have districts that are known for prostitution.

Laws prohibiting prostitution in Chicago

Illinois state statutes mandate that the act of performing any act of sexual penetration in exchange for something of value is considered unlawful and a class A misdemeanor upon first conviction. Being a customer of a prostitute is also a class A misdemeanor. Multiple convictions for either of these crimes result in class 4 felony charges.

Pandering (the act of compelling another person to become a prostitute) is classed as a class 4 felony.

First-time offenders are given lighter sentences. However, repeat offenders can depend on spending significant time in prison for their crimes.


The following Nevada counties have their own laws and regulations on prostitution:

Prostitution laws in US cities:

Prostitution laws in Canada