Tag: diversion programs

JOIN MONICA JONES ON MARCH 14: TAKE ACTION FOR THE RIGHTS OF TRANS PEOPLE AND SEX WORKERS

The Best Practices Policy Project, the Desiree Alliance, Global Action for Trans* Equality and INCITE! are calling for US-wide and international action on March 14, 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 March 14 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. Simultaneously on March 14, two sex worker rights advocates will be at 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 by viewing online coverage from the United Nations, 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 @ gmail.com and director@desireealliance.org 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 and the UN action can be found at:

https://www.facebook.com/events/477216822384806/

http://www.bestpracticespolicy.org/2014/01/10/phoenix-calling-the-united-nations-new-iccpr-report/

http://www.swopphoenix.org/monica/

The hashtags #standwithMonica and #notyourrescueproject are being used for social media.

Update on ongoing harassment of Monica: 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.

Questionable Practices: Arresting people “for their own good” violates social work ethics

Stephanie Wahab and Meg Panichelli provide a succinct analysis of the ethical considerations associated with diversion programs that arrest people in the sex trade in order to force them to accept services. Their commentary which appears in a 2013 edition of AFFILIA, a peer reviewed social work journal addressing the concerns of social workers and their clients from a feminist point of view, challenges the “assumption that arresting (or participating in the arrest of) people ‘for their own good’ constitutes good or ethical social work practice.” The authors conclude that, “targeting people for arrest under the guise of helping them violates numerous ethical standards as well as the humanity of people engaged in the sex industry” and express concerns that such an approach “constitutes an act of structural violence against individuals who already frequently report negative, discriminatory, and often violent encounters with law enforcement including people with precarious migratory or citizenship status, poor, youth, transgender, and people of color.”

The example that sparked the writing of the AFFILIA editorial is Project ROSE, a program in which social workers from Arizona State University  School of Social Work and some service providers collaborate with city wide raids orchestrated by the Phoenix Police Department.

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Phoenix responds to Project ROSE’s police raids

Phoenix advocates used these and similar signs during public protests against a rights violating diversion program.

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.”

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Challenging “Helpful” Raids in Phoenix, Arizona

This week, Project ROSE—a collaboration between the Phoenix Police Department, ASU School of Social Work and a number of local service organizations–is conducting a three
day raid targeting sex workers and people in the sex trade for arrest. Sex workers and their allies have organized a comprehensive response to these rights violating raids which are planned for May 15, 16 and 17. Advocates have distributed “know your rights” information amongst communities who may be affected by Project ROSE’s raids. A public action protesting the raids is planned on Thursday May 16 at 4.30 pm in front of the “command post” at Bethany Bible Church where community members will be transported after their arrest by the Phoenix Police Department.

Project Rose is predicated on the notion that arresting people in the sex trade is the best way to link them to services. This program relies on force, not human rights and harm reduction. Arrestees who are eligible—the program is available to those with no prior arrests for sex work, no outstanding warrants, and not in possession of any drugs at the time of arrest—only have the option of “diversion” to Project ROSE or incarceration on a prostitution charge.

Sex worker rights advocates in Phoenix are challenging the utility of Project ROSE and are raising concerns about the abuses that arrested community members may experience at the hands of the police and in prisons. “Project ROSE is not a solution to violence and harm against sex workers,” said Jenelle Lovelie of the Phoenix chapter of the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP), adding that, “Project ROSE criminalizes sex workers and masquerades as a social service project.” Another local organizer Jaclyn Moskal-Dairman noted that the “restrictive eligibility criteria for accepting ‘diversion’ from criminal charges mean that many who will be arrested this week will not be offered services at all. Instead they will be incarcerated.” In Arizona people arrested under anti-prostitution statutes face a mandatory minimum sentence on their first charge and felony charges after the third arrest. Experience has shown that being incarcerated in Arizona can be a death sentence. In May 2009 Marcia Powell, a woman serving a 27 month sentence for solicitation of prostitution, died after being left in a prison holding cage in the blazing sun without water. Project ROSE would not have assisted Marcia, the program would have imprisoned her because she had several prior arrests for prostitution.

Sex workers and their allies are demanding rights based approaches that work such as peer based outreach programs, comprehensive services and an end to police harassment and arrest. They are adamant that Project ROSE is ineffective and the numbers confirm their claims. Of 214 people arrested since the program began three years ago only about one third complete the diversion program. The fate of the remaining 70% is not clear, but it seems likely given Arizona’s tough stance on incarceration that they have been sentenced to jail or prison.