PHOENIX, AZ – Sex workers and allies protested yesterday October 17, 2013 outside Bethany Bible Church, the site of the Project ROSE Prostitution Diversion Initiative. Twice a year the Phoenix Police and the ASU School of Social Work team up to arrest people working in the sex trade. People who are arrested and found to be “eligible” for services are forced to choose between a 6-month diversion program and criminal charges. Many arrested during the stings are not eligible for the diversion process at all and face incarceration under Arizona’s mandatory minimum statutes.
“Project ROSE coordinators claim this program offers voluntary diversion,” Jaclyn Moskal-Dairman of Phoenix SWOP, an organization of sex workers and allies fighting for the rights of sex workers, explained. “But when our own members are arrested and taken to court, we know better. This program doesn’t make people safer, it creates fear and trauma. The raids rely on coercion, and result in more people behind bars for working.”
After Phoenix SWOP protested Project ROSE in May, one of the protest participants was picked up by an undercover officer the following night and taken to the Project ROSE site. The SWOP member, a student at the ASU School of Social Work, was deemed ineligible for diversion, and now faces up to 6 months in jail. The SWOP member will be challenging the charges that lead to her arrest–manifestation of prostitution, a vague and possibly unconstitutional statute frequently invoked against members of the transgender community in Phoenix as well as against sex workers–at trial in November 2013.
To learn more about Project ROSE and the work of Phoenix SWOP, click here.