“Due process? What due process? We’re rescuing hookers!”

17 Apr 2014 02:00 am
Posted by: Donna

Certain areas of Phoenix have a problem with prostitution and sex workers are often trafficked into it so some (I assume) well-intentioned people came up with a diversion program which is not without its critics:

Project ROSE (Reaching Out on Sexual Exploitation) is a collaboration between the Phoenix Police Department and Arizona State University School of Social Work. Twice a year, more than 100 police officers spend two days rounding up sex workers through street sweeps and online stings. Sex workers are handcuffed and taken to Bethany Bible Church. They are then assessed for eligibility to the “arrest-diversion” program. Anyone with previous arrests for prostitution or in possession of drugs at the time of arrest is ineligible. Eligible sex workers speak to a prosecutor who offers them the ultimatum of criminal charges and possible jail time or participation in a “rehabilitation” program run by Catholic Charities. They are denied the right to speak to a defense attorney.

The article I quoted is from Ryan Beck Turner of the Human Trafficking Center, who is obviously not a fan of the program. ProjectROSE came to the attention of sex worker and civil rights advocates when Monica Jones, an ASU social work student and transgender and sex worker activist, was apprehended and charged with “manifesting prostitution”. Jones claims she was not soliciting on the night she was arrested and that she was targeted for protesting ProjectROSE.

I’m just going to say that ProjectROSE strikes me as a ghastly cross between a Crisis Pregnancy Center and a 12 step program, with police and prosecutorial force behind it. But even if it were the most fantastic prostitution diversion program ever devised, the way they get people into the program is fraught with violations of due process. They are really trying to claim that handcuffing people and taking them to a location where they are not permitted to leave is not an arrest? They are really trying to claim that being “assessed for eligibility” by cops is not an interrogation? They are seriously acting like sex work suspects being required to make incriminating statements about themselves and a deal with prosecutors to avoid being charged and put in jail is somehow fine and that all the above can happen without the suspects being advised that they can talk to a lawyer first?

ProjectROSE’s own fact sheet says this about that:

Clients at Project ROSE do not require legal representation, as they are not under arrest. They are never arrested at Project ROSE for the prostitution-related charge.

They are “never arrested” by snatching them off the street and handcuffing them for “manifesting prostitution” or whatever. Yeah, okay. But what is the problem, if this is such a helpful program, with simply allowing and encouraging suspects caught up in it to, you know, talk to a lawyer of their own choosing about whether or not this is the right thing for them before they agree to it? Why the insistence that legal representation isn’t required? Why are you so afraid of diligent defense attorneys snooping around your program, ProjectROSE?

Monica Jones, who alleges that she was improperly arrested, exemplifies why the immediate availability of a defense attorney is required. Does anyone believe that the prosecuting attorneys on hand at the ProjectROSE “events” (this is how a defender of the sweeps described them to me on Facebook) will give an iota of real help to a person suspected of prostitution who believes her rights were violated by her arresting officer?

Maybe sex workers should take up ranching on federal lands instead.

1 Comment(s)

  1. Comment by Phoenix Justice on April 17, 2014 7:20 am

    I am probably in the minority, but I always thought the best way to use limited public resources is to legalize prostitution. This would allow law enforcement to focus on underage sex trafficking wile providing much needed protections for adult prostitutes (both male & female).

    I am also appalled at the combination of “church & state” in Project Rose. Couldn’t they use a public community center and a public welfare agency? And yes, there are several constitutional issues with this program. They need to shut it down.

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