Yesterday community members carrying information and harm reduction supplies were threatened with arrest and were not allowed to communicate with sex workers (and people profiled as sex workers) who had been detained by police and forcibly transported to Project ROSE. Project ROSE is run twice a year and is a collaboration between the Phoenix Police, the ASU School of Social Work, and local social service agencies. Project ROSE and policing of sex workers in Phoenix in general have come under intense scrutiny because of a long list of rights violations documented by local community representatives. In March 2014, advocates from the Best Practices Policy Project and SWOP Phoenix traveled to the United Nations to raise concerns about these abuses to the Human Rights Committee during the review of the United States under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Organizations in Arizona are continuing to sound alarm bells about the rights violating detentions carried out by Project ROSE. Yesterday, protesters chanted “Rights! Not rescue, rights!” at the entrance to Bethany Bible Church where people caught up in the raids are forcibly transported in handcuffs to “diversion services.” Jaclyn Dairman-Moskal of SWOP Phoenix explained yesterday in a statement released by SWOP Phoenix that there appears to be nothing voluntary about the “services” at the Project ROSE location. “Project ROSE coordinators claim this program offers voluntary diversion,” noted Ms Dairman-Mosal, “[But] … the program creates a coercive environment, using jail as a threat to intimidate people into participation.” She further explained that, “Over 30% of people picked up in Project ROSE are not even eligible for diversion, and face accumulating criminal charges as a result of these raids. This program is a way to fill jails, not to help our community.” Local organizations are continuing to seek support for comprehensive, rights-based programs for sex workers, and an end to criminalization. Nationally a group of social workers, Social Workers United for Justice, is petitioning the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) to “demand an end to Arizona State University School of Social Work’s involvement with Project Rose” because it violates socials work’s core professional principles. Last year two social workers described in an editorial in Afilia–a journal of women and social work--how Project ROSE violates the ethical and professional standards of both the NASW and CSWE.
SWOP Phoenix’s full press release of May 15, 2014 is available below.