14 March 2014

Monica Jones Goes On Trial for WWT

Some of my male students--and other young men I know--have been pulled over for a "charge" they refer to as "DWB", or Driving While Black.

Even adult black men are not exempt from such treatment, particularly if they drive late-model Mercedes,  BMW or Lexus cars.

I wonder whether any of them has ever been stopped for WWB:  Walking While Black.

It seems that somewhere there's a law on the books for WWT:  Walking While Trans. At least, that's what some police officers seem to think.

Last May, officers in Phoenix (AZ) arrested Monica Jones, an activist and social work student at Arizona State University.  She was speaking out at a protest against Project ROSE (Reaching Out to the Sexually Exploited), a controversial collaboration between the University's school of social work and the Phoenix Police Department. 

In Project ROSE, officers pick up people they suspect of "prostitution" and bring them--often in handcuffs--to a church.  There, ASU staff members check them in and match them with volunteers, some of whom are former sex workers.  These volunteers offer the arrestees a chance to enroll in a 36-week program in which they're given medical, mental health and other service if they quit sex work.  After completing the program, charges are dropped.

However, if the arrestee refuses to enter the program, doesn't qualify or is ineligible, he or she can expect to be summoned to court, where he or she could face prison time under Arizona's harsh sentencing laws.

You may not think that the program is such a bad deal.  After all, it offers services to people who might not get them otherwise and gives them a chance to get out of "the world's oldest profession."  However, if someone who has never been involved in sex work has been swept up, he or she can end up in prison for refusing to participate in a program for which he or she has no need.

That seems to be the case with Monica Jones.  She had no prior record of arrest, and from all evidence, has never been involved in sex work.  But the worst thing about this case is that if she is convicted, she will be sent to a men's prison notorious for human rights violation.  Plus, it goes without saying that her life would be in danger as would the life of any trans woman who ends up in a men's prison.

She is set to go on trial today.  More about her story as I get word on it.

No comments: