The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona is looking into the program known as "Project ROSE," which involves sending suspected prostitutes to a church-based diversion program as an option to avoid jail.
The ACLU has filed records requests seeking a wealth of information on the program, which is a collaboration between the Phoenix Police Department and Arizona State University's School of Social Work.
According to a report from Al-Jazeera last year, Phoenix PD sets up prostitution stings twice a year, in which suspected prostitutes are detained and offered a chance to avoid jail, with a trip to Bethany Bible Church in Phoenix.
According to an ASU press release:
The victims (prostitutes) received options for safe housing, crisis mental health counseling, medical services, options for detox and drug treatment, food, clothes and their initial interview for the Diversion Program provided by Catholic Charities, and most significantly, the opportunity to change their life. Upon completion of the Diversion Program, which can be a six-month commitment, charges will not be filed on the originating case and the individual can begin to move forward with their life and reclaim their dignity.
Not only is there an apparent problem with organizing busts to send people to a church-backed charity program, but a local group, the Sex Workers Outreach Project of Phoenix, has protested the program because they don't want to be "rescued" from anything.
Sex workers are out there to make money, not as "victims," according to the Sex Workers Outreach Project.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Now, the ACLU has submitted records requests for all kinds of information about the program, including funding information, all kinds of documents about training and background of Project ROSE, and documentation of the police sting operations.
For more information currently available about the workings of the program, check out VICE's story, "Project ROSE is arresting sex workers in Arizona to save their souls."
Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.