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Ever heard of Monica Jones? She was arrested for what's called 'manifesting prostitution.' Yup.

With all that is happening in the streets of the good ol' U.S. of A., isn't there a better way for cops to spend their time?

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Open Society Foundations

The story of Monica Jones

All images via Fusion.


Monica Jones, a student and LGBT activist at Arizona State University, accepted a ride home from her favorite bar. The next thing you know, she was charged with "manifesting prostitution."

Wait, what?! It's a thing. In Phoenix, it's a misdemeanor crime that's part of the municipal code. Basically, cops can throw a person in jail for trying to stop or repeatedly talk to passersby, for engaging them in conversation, for asking someone if they are a cop, or for asking to be touched sexually.

So, after accepting a ride from someone, Monica was arrested, spent 15 days in jail, and then was sentenced and fined. But, thankfully, that's not how the story ends.

The effects of a manifesting prostitution charge are devastating.

I'll get back to Monica's story in a minute. Meanwhile, about those "manifesting prostitution" laws: They're all over the country. As the Fusion video below shows, 57,000 people were arrested for violating these laws in 2011 alone.

These laws open the door for racial profiling like you've never seen it: 94% of the people arrested in Brooklyn for this "offense" were African-Americans, largely women. And the trans community is quite frequently profiled as sex workers — so much so that the offense has been referred to as "walking while trans."

It becomes even more problematic because cops can actually engage in sexual activity with sex workers and THEN arrest them. I mean ... wow.


Legalization of sex work?

How do we fix this situation? Sex worker activists have called for the decriminalization of consensual sex work. But some fight legalization and support things like the "manifesting prostitution" laws because they fear that human trafficking is a big problem in the sex worker industry.

In reality, there's a lot more trafficking in other professions, such as domestic workers, agriculture, and construction. No one is calling to eliminate those jobs. Calling an end to consensual sex work because of the threat of trafficking just doesn't make sense. Creating a world where safe, healthy decisions about sex can be made without abusive policing does.

What happened to Monica?

So, back to Monica. She organized with other trans women and activists to help get the word out after she was first convicted. This past January, her conviction was overturned with the help of the ACLU. Now, she's continuing her important work to eliminate such broad and myopic laws.

Here's more about how all of this played out and more about the treatment of sex workers in America:

Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation

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