I’m sure this abuse of sex workers goes on everywhere, but Molly Crabapple at Vice exposed the goings on in Arizona.
Project ROSE is a Phoenix city program that arrests sex workers in the name of saving them. In five two-day stings, more than 100 police officers targeted alleged sex workers on the street and online. They brought them in handcuffs to the Bethany Bible Church. There, the sex workers were forced to meet with prosecutors, detectives, and representatives of Project ROSE, who offered a diversion program to those who qualified. Those who did not may face months or years in jail.
Things already look problematic here. The workers who were detained were not allowed to speak to lawyers. In fact, they were not considered arrested at all. They were merely lawfully detained in a program. Whatever that means.
So what is this program?
Project ROSE is the creation of Dr. Dominique Roe-Sepowitz. She is the director of the Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research and a tenured professor at Arizona State University, where Monica Jones is a student. Once, she and Monica had even debated Project ROSE…
At first, Project ROSE may seem similar to the many diversion programs in the United States, in which judges sentence offenders to education, rehab, or community service rather than giving them a criminal record. What makes ROSE different is that it doesn’t work with the convicted. Rather, its raids funnel hundreds of people into the criminal justice system. Denied access to lawyers, many of these people are coerced into ROSE’s program without being convicted of any crime. Project ROSE may not seem constitutional, but to Roe-Sepowitz, “rescue” is more important than rights.
In November 2013, Roe-Sepowitz told Al Jazeera: “Once you’ve prostituted you can never not have prostituted… Having that many body parts in your body parts, having that many body fluids near you and doing things that are freaky and weird really messes up your ideas of what a relationship looks like, and intimacy.”
Taxpayers foot the bill for this program with money going to the officers conducting the raid, to the church that serves as the “staging area”, to the Arizona State students who serve as volunteers for the program.
Here’s a story that Al-Jazeera America did on this: