Barbara Terry has been arrested hundreds of times for prostitution, sometimes serving days or weeks at Rikers Island, but the 52-year-old Bronx woman continues looking for customers on the same streets she's worked for the last 30 years of her life, according to a profile of Terry published in the Dec. 30 edition of The New York Times.
Terry was 21-years-old and two years into college when her husband left her with two small children to support, The New York Times reported. She knew little about the sex trade at the time, but had heard about prostitutes working in the Hunts Point area of the Bronx and decided to try it, quickly forming an addiction to the lifestyle.
"I love the excitement of coming out here and seeing all these beautiful people I know," Terry told the Times. "Even my dates are a comfort. This place has made me strong. It keeps you young."
Thirty years later, Terry has saved enough money from prostitution -- she currently charges customers $50 to $100 for her services -- to buy a home in upstate New York, where she plans to retire in a year.
But even after retirement, Terry will struggle with health issues she's developed over the course of her long and difficult career, including a serious case of diabetes which has caused all of her teeth to fall out.
The number of prostitutes currently working in the United States is difficult to determine because the activity is illegal and the definition of prostitution is often debated, among many other reasons.
Recent high-profile crackdowns on prostitutions rings suggest the activity is thriving in New York. In July 2011, 17 people and five "corporations" were charged with running a high-end prostitution ring that took in $7 million in three years, CNN reported.
According to The New York Times, the average age at which children are first used as prostitute is between 11 and 14.