Category: Uncategorized

DOJ Report on Baltimore Police Shows Harms of Criminalization of Commercial Sex


Jacqueline Robarge, Power Inside | jrobarge at (410) 889-8333
Darby Hickey, Best Practices Policy Project | darbyhickey at (202) 250-4869
Katherine M Koster, SWOP-USA | katherine at (877) 776-2004

DOJ Report on Baltimore Police Shows Harms of Criminalization of Commercial Sex

Statement from Power Inside, Best Practices Policy Project, and Sex Worker Outreach Project-National (SWOP-USA)

The August 10th U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigative findings on the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) reveals police abuse and misconduct that sex workers have documented for years. According to the DOJ findings, BPD officers “fail to meaningfully investigate reports of sexual assault, particularly for assaults involving women with additional vulnerabilities, such as those who are involved in the sex trade.” In addition to ignoring sexual assault reports, the DOJ reports, officers themselves targeted, raped, and sexually assaulted sex workers, noting that such conduct “is not only criminal, it is an abuse of power.”

The DOJ details the BPD’s sweeping racial bias and unconstitutional practices that include racial profiling, degrading strip searches, excessive force, abusive language, and erroneous arrests. According to the report, African American sex workers and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are particularly impacted by biased policing and are repeatedly targeted for stops without cause. The DOJ noted that, “BPD’s application of city ordinances banning loitering, trespassing, and failing to obey an officer’s order violates the Fourteenth Amendment.” Once stopped, sex workers of color or those perceived as sex workers are treated with a magnified level of disrespect and abuse.

Unfortunately, this mistreatment is not unique to Baltimore. In 2014 at the United Nations review of the U.S. human rights record, sex worker groups presented documentation of widespread human rights abuses in the U.S. against sex workers and those profiled as engaging in commercial sex, including documentation from Baltimore. The documentation presented in 2014 was a follow-up to a 2010 U.S. human rights record review in 2010, when the U.S. Government agreed to address discrimination against sex workers

Despite this longstanding documentation of police abuse of individuals engaged in the sex trade, particularly African American cisgender and transgender women, the U.S. government has taken no steps to address these pervasive human rights violations. Just as the DOJ documented in Baltimore, throughout the country police officers assault and rape sex workers, ignore sexual assault claims brought by people involved in sex work and deliberately fail to investigate these abuses. Police officers also profile people, particularly transgender and cisgender women, as sex workers, stopping and arresting them on scant evidence. This profiling comes as part of the broader racial and gender profiling of African Americans and other people of color documented extensively by DOJ across the country.

These human rights violations are a direct result of criminalization of marginalized communities in general and the criminalization of sex work more specifically. To address them, states and municipalities should work against criminalization in general and towards the decriminalization of drug use and sex work. The federal government should issue guidance on racial and gender profiling, make state and local funding contingent on an end to such practices, and promote policies and practices which stop human rights abuses against people of color, transgender people, sex workers and those profiled as involved in commercial sex.

The crafting of the Baltimore’s DOJ consent decree, and those in other DOJ investigations, must meaningfully include sex workers, LGBT people, and marginalized survivors of violence that have been most impacted by neglectful and unconstitutional practices. Real reform must include robust reforms that are specific to marginalized communities.

Read the U.S. Department of Justice report:

Listen to women in Baltimore describe interactions with the police:­of­violence

Read reports submitted to the United Nations regarding human rights abuses of sex
workers by police:
2010 report to the Universal Periodic Review

2014 report to the Universal Periodic Review

For more recent documentation of police misconduct against sex workers, see:



AIDS2016: the next International AIDS Conference will be held in Durban, South Africa in July 2016. The deadline to submit an abstract (a presentation in the main conference) or a workshop/Global Village close February 4, 2016 at 5.59 pm EST/2.59 pm Pacific (NB: this is an international deadline and so closes at 11.59 pm European time/CET, do not be fooled into thinking this is midnight US time!). BPPP is currently working on several proposals with community members to highlight HIV policy concerns in the US for sex workers and for cultural events. Contact BPPP if you need any last minute advice or to join us, having your name linked to an abstract or workshop is very important if you wish to get a scholarship.  Scholarships applications are due February 12, 2016 but we advise getting applications in by February 11 if possible because this is an international deadline. Applicants need a reference letter.  If you are a community member, organizer, or volunteer, please contact BPPP if you would like to be considered for  a reference letter by noon EST February 9, 2016.

HIV IS NOT A CRIME II CONFERENCE: Scholarship applications for this ground breaking event on HIV criminalization law and policy are open until February 5, 2016. Applicants need a reference letter. If you are a community member, organizer, or volunteer, please contact BPPP if you would like to be considered for  a reference letter by noon EST February 4, 2016.  HIV is Not a Crime II is three days of workshops and practical trainings on state advocacy, grassroots organizing, criminalization reform messaging, and familiarity with the related legal, medical, media, and public health issues.  Attendees will include advocates living with HIV, community organizers, activists, and experts in public health, law and public policy from across the country.

DESIREE ALLIANCE: Early registration for the much anticipated 2016 Desiree Alliance conference in New Orleans this summer is available until February 28, 2016. If you or your organization are able to register early, this will greatly help Desiree Alliance. Early registration is more than just paying to attend, it supports our sex worker rights movement. Registering is almost as good as a donation to our cause.



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New York, NY, November 10, 2015—LGBT+ community groups will host a town hall at the LGBT Center on 13th St. in Manhattan at 6 PM to 8:30 PM, November 11, 2015.

These groups seek to organize against the August 25, 2015 raid by the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, and the NYPD in the larger context of the epidemic of violence against our communities while basic needs for housing, living wages, and affirming medical care remain unmet. These disparities overwhelmingly target people of color, especially women, trans-women and gender non-conforming people of color.

From 6 PM to 7:30 PM, discussants will raise awareness about the Rentboy raid as well as community-based campaigns for policy reform that include people in the sex trades, at the federal, state, and local level.

From 7:30 to 8:30 PM, forum participants will break into three working group sessions focused on policy advocacy, community organizing and actions, and litigation and legal services. The working group portion of the event is closed to the press.

Contact: Rico Stone, (c)

Sponsors:       #HookUp Collaborative,; ACT-UP/NY,; Best Practices Policy Project,; Red Umbrella Project,


This event is not affiliated with any company or organization, but is instead organized by a loose working group of people who have advertised, and people in community with advertisers, on


The Best Practices Policy Project, the Desiree Alliance, Global Action for Trans* Equality and INCITE! are calling for US-wide and international action on April 11, 2014 to support Monica Jones’ campaign for the rights of transgender people and sex workers.

Monica Jones, a human rights defender in Arizona and an advocate for the rights of transgender people and sex workers, was profiled and wrongfully arrested for “manifestation of prostitution” by a police sting operation and anti-prostitution diversion program known as “Project ROSE”. Ms Jones had been a speaker at a rally protesting Project ROSE—which is run by Phoenix police and Arizona State University’s School of Social Work—the day before. At the time of her arrest, she was not engaging in sex work, but was in fact walking down her street to the local bar.

On April 11 at 8.30 am (US Mountain Standard Time) Monica’s case will go to trial at Phoenix Municipal Court. She will plead not guilty and an action is planned outside the court to show the City of Phoenix Prosecutor that we won’t tolerate the systematic profiling and criminalization of transgender people of color and sex workers. The court date was postponed after Monica’s defense filed a motion challenging the constitutional basis of the manifestation law, and Monica promised to return with “twice as many people.” Last month, two sex worker rights advocates went to the United Nations in Geneva to bring international attention to Monica’s trial and the ongoing human rights violations occurring in Phoenix and across the United States.

We call on people and organizations across the United States, in the region and internationally to show your support for Monica Jones and the issues she cares about. We encourage individuals, organizations, and communities to acknowledge the day in whatever way they feel safe in doing to raise awareness, to learn and share about the issues (it could be through social media action, by sharing a meal, organizing a public action, writing a letter to the press, through art and so on).

Please email us at bestpracticespolicyproject @ and director @ to tell us about the action you plan and if you would like us to highlight your action on our websites. If you wish to add your organization’s name to this call, email us and we would be happy to do so.

More information about the case, Monica’s trial can be found at:

Since refusing to plead guilty to the charges she is innocent of, Ms. Jones has been targeted four additional times by police officers while walking around her neighborhood carrying out everyday activities such as bringing groceries home or heading to her local bar. Each time, the police use insulting and transphobic language and threaten her with arrest, despite the fact that she is doing nothing more than simply walking outdoors. Across the U.S. and in Phoenix, transgender people of color are routinely targeted for harassment and hate-motivated violence, by both police and the public, and are frequently profiled as sex workers by police. Transgender people are also targeted for cruel treatment in prisons, including by guards.

Ms. Jones states, “I believe I was profiled as a sex worker because I am a transgender woman of color, and an activist. I am a student at ASU, and fear that these wrongful charges will affect my educational path. I am also afraid that if am sentenced, I will be placed in a men’s jail as a transgender woman, which would be very unsafe for me. Prison is an unsafe place for everyone, and especially trans people.

Monica Jones should not have to go to court to fight wrongful charges resulting from a discriminatory and arbitrary arrest stemming from a department in which she studies. Sign the petition to have the charges against Monica dropped.