Human rights defender Monica Jones, along with other human rights activists, were in Geneva at the United Nations this past week to educate officials about rights violations happening in the United States. The U.S. is up for review of its human rights record in May as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Ms. Jones’ fight for justice was highlighted at the U.N. previously in 2014 during a review of U.S. compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This video captures Monica Jones presenting to officials about the need for strengthened protections for the human rights of sex workers, and the need to end racist and transphobic policing. Read an in-depth piece on what Ms. Jones is doing in Geneva on Truthout.org.
Today an Arizona Superior Court Judge ruled that the guilty verdict against Monica Jones be reversed because of procedural errors during her trial earlier last year. Monica is elated and in a telephone interview earlier today noted that, “this is a win and the truth has come out. It has taken many months for the appeal to rectify a decision that the first judge announced in less than a minute.” At the April 2014 trial, when Judge Hercules–in the absence of clear evidence–found Ms Jones guilty of “manifesting prostitution,” he stated she was not a “credible” witness because of having a prior conviction for prostitution. His abrupt decision shocked a packed court room of observers and supporters of Monica Jones.
Judge Mclennan–who vacated the ruling today–found that the trial court had erred in “considering the Defendant’s potential punishment in assessing her credibility.” Judge Hercules had argued that because Monica Jones had acknowledged having a prior conviction that she had a “motive [to lie] to avoid a mandatory 30-day sentence.” Today’s reversal shows that a defendant who is innocent also has motive to deny having carried out the act in question and the “fact that a defendant testifies that he or she did not commit the crime is not a valid indicator whether the defendant is testifying truthfully or falsely.” The reversal, however, did not draw any conclusions in regards to the Constitutional arguments to invalidate the “manifestation statute” brought by Monica Jones and her legal team.
And so while Monica has prevailed, her quest to end the profiling of so many in the community under the vague and discriminatory statute of “manifestation of prostitution” has not yet ended. “Today is a only small step for women, trans women and sex workers who have been convicted under this law, there is still so much more to be done to end the injustice of the arrests,” Ms Jones said. “I hope that my case is an inspiration for others. I hope this is a precedent for sex workers who have been charged to stand up and fight for their rights. I hope we see more and more individuals fighting against these types of charges.” Monica is currently in discussions with her legal team about how further constitutional challenges to the manifestation statute can be made.
The future is seems much brighter for Monica now that the guilty verdict has been reversed. “I’m really excited that I’ve won this case,” she said with relief, “Its been a long journey but the love and support that I got along the way kept me strong. I want to send my thanks to all who helped me on this journey.” Monica Jones plans to continue her studies and her human rights work for sex workers, women of color and the transgender community.
This coming #fundingFriday 4 #sexworkerrights BPPP will raise awareness about a community fundraiser in support of Kini Seawright and Peggy Plews who are both advocates for the rights of sex workers, prisoners and parents.
Peggy and Kini lost their house and belongings in a house fire in Michigan. They had very recently moved there from Phoenix, Arizona. Their role in progressive politics in Phoenix is beyond dispute. They have opened their home, shared their food, fought in the streets and given everything they had to help people victimized by the police and prison industrial complex. Kini and Peggy were there at the very first meeting of SWOP Phoenix in 2013, the posters for the first rally was made at their house, on their porch. They encouraged so many people–including the ACLU AZ–to #standwithMonica during the recent years of campaign lead by Monica Jones to challenge the Phoenix “manifestation” statute. Both Peggy and Kini are artists and writers. Peggy is the creator of magnificent public chalking art challenging injustice. Kini is a contributor to the anthology Red Umbrella Babies and recently joined the editorial collective to take a larger role in the book process.
They are trying to raise $600 to help them pay a deposit on a new place and rebuild their lives, but we at BPPP think as a community of sex workers and allies we can do so much more than that. Let’s make a nice surprise for them and take this to $1000 or more.
What is #fundingFriday 4 #sexworkerrights? Last July in preparation for the International AIDS Conference, sex workers from around the world created a consensus statement and began occupying #fundingFriday every week to raise awareness of the lack of resources for projects by and for sex workers. We follow this sex worker lead campaign supported by Scarlet Alliance and sex workers globally. Throughout 2015 the Best Practices Policy Project will highlight community fundraisers to support the things that sex workers find important.
Project ROSE stings end in Phoenix, AZ, Monica Jones responds
As you may you know I was arrested under an anti-prostitution sting, by the name of Project ROSE. This program used police and prosecutors to round up sex workers, and people profiled as sex workers, forcing them into diversion programs using coercion. The head of this program is Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, a social work professor at Arizona State University School of Social Work in Phoenix, Arizona.
Using coercive tactics such as those central to Project ROSE contradicts everything social work stands for. Social workers are supposed to defend social justice and free will. Using police to round up sex workers robs them of their self-determination and dignity and thus goes against the code of ethics of social work.
As of today, I have been advised that no more Project ROSE events are planned, and Project ROSE will not be conducting any more police stings, hopefully permanently. This is a milestone in the community’s struggle to end the injustice of Project ROSE and rights violating policing of this kind. We still have further to go. The next milestones to reach are getting the “manifestation statute” off the books and getting my conviction overturned.
Thanks to the ACLU, SWOP-Phoenix and Best Practices Policy Project for their work for social justice and all my other supporters in Arizona and beyond.
Monica Jones, November 26, 2014