Last Friday, Monica Jones was found guilty of prostitution-related charges despite efforts from her and the ACLU after being arrested in May of 2013 in a police sting operation in Phoenix, Arizona. The black transgender student and well-known sex work activist had not actually engaged in prostitution—she accepted a ride to a bar in her neighborhood from two men who revealed themselves to be undercover cops, but that didn't matter.
See, under Phoenix law, people can be arrested for "repeatedly stopping and engaging a passerby in conversation" if a police officer suspects them of prostitution. Because people don't normally carry giant signs that say "Sex Worker Currently Operating," it all comes down to profiling. Unsurprisingly, trans women of color take the hardest hit, facing risk of arrest for simply chatting someone up repeatedly or even asking if someone is a police officer.
On top of that, Project ROSE, an initiative by ASU School of Social Work in collaboration with the Phoenix Police Department and has been conducting street sweeps and sting operations in order to "save" sex workers, a program Jones herself has been protesting with the Sex Workers Outreach Program. In her words, "we don't believe consenting sex workers are victims, or that workers need to be arrested in order to get services."
Jones, who pled not guilty and challenged the constitutionality of the "manifesting prostitution" law is now looking at time in a men's jail, which is recklessly unsafe especially given the reputation of Arizona's prison system. But she will, of course, be appealing the decision, stating:
"I am saddened by the injustice that took place at my trial this morning, but we are not giving up the fight. It's time that we end the stigma and the criminalization of sex work, the profiling of trans women of color, and the racist policing system that harms so many of us."
The fact that "manifesting prostitution" is a concept, let alone law is absolutely befuddling and enraging. We wish Monica the best as she appeals the ridiculous decision and makes more headway in transgender and sex workers' rights.
Image via Support Monica Jones Facebook page.