If they come for me in the morning, they’re coming for you that night. – Monica Jones
Eleven months ago Monica Jones, a transgender sex worker, activist and social work student at Arizona State, was arrested for “manifestation of prostitution”, Arizona’s label for the tyrannical laws which allow cops virtually everywhere in the United States to arrest any woman they like by claiming she “acted like a whore”. The tag “Lack of Evidence” is full of such instances, and I synopsized a few of them in “Be Careful Who You Rape”:
…When prostitution is criminalized to any degree, women who carry condoms, answer personal ads, wear sexy lingerie, go without lingerie, fail forced “virginity tests”, ask a cop if he’s a cop, “act sexy”, go out after dark without a male chaperone, or even just “look like a prostitute” are regularly arrested and charged with having sex for a reason some people don’t like…
Though there have been a few cases of such ridiculously-flimsy charges being struck down lately, those were not in Phoenix, Arizona, a city so addicted to authoritarianism it has kept Joe Arpaio in office for 22 years. Jones argued in class with Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, the ethically-retarded academic paid by Arizona prohibitionists to produce bogus “studies” for them; she was thrown out of a previous “diversion” program for refuting the lies and exaggerations the propagandists were trying to drum into their victims; she has prominently protested the blatantly-unconstitutional Project ROSE; and she has posted Backpage ads to warn sex workers about the stings held to force women into the program. In other words, she was a known enemy of the Phoenix prohibitionist machine and ventured into public (i.e. cop territory) during a time she knew they were out hunting; it was a virtual certainty she would be arrested. And though many activists expressed shock and surprise when she was found guilty eleven days ago, I would’ve been extremely surprised had she not been. The American courts are not about justice; they are about providing the appearance of due process while grinding up every single person cops and prosecutors decide to target, and the few who escape are like the bits of meat that are occasionally hurled free from a mechanized abattoir and go flying to the floor: not totally chopped to pieces, but not the same as when they went in, either.
As is typical in emotionally-charged legal cases, there are a lot of rumors and half-truths flying about; I therefore think it would behoove us to set the record straight on a few matters. First: the statement which I’ve heard more than any other since this whole thing started is that Monica was arrested for “walking while trans”, in other words unjustly profiled as a sex worker based on nothing other than her transgender status. But while it’s true that cops do often wrongly assume transgender women are all hookers and harass them on that basis, this was obviously not what happened in Monica’s case; as I explained above, she was a persistent gadfly and a thorn in the prohibitionists’ side, and would no doubt have been targeted for that reason no matter what her race or gender status. Furthermore, it’s a bit disingenuous to say she was wrongly profiled when she is in fact a “known prostitute” and a vocal member of SWOP Phoenix. Her arrest was wrongful because laws against sex workers are wrongful, not because she was misidentified.
Next, as I pointed out above, the US court system is not designed to produce justice but to produce prisoners, and while there are some wise jurists out there who really do care about justice, they generally aren’t judging misdemeanor cases in municipal courts. The typical judge at this level isn’t a brilliant doctor of the law carefully considering questions of fairness and constitutionality; he’s a fair-to-middling lawyer who graduated in the bottom half of his class and is more concerned with what he’s going to have for lunch than whether a law under which someone’s been charged is just or moral. Such a man isn’t interested in rocking the boat; he pretends to believe whatever lies cops vomit out, decides whether the defendant probably did whatever it was, then reads out whatever’s on the little idiot-proof sentencing chart the ruling legislature insists he follow. Monica admitted to grabbing the cop’s crotch (for some unfathomable reason); that alone was enough to convict her under the statute even if Hizzoner had been disinclined to play the stooge for lying cops that day.
Finally, given the circumstances as explained above, the judge was actually fairly lenient by Conviction, Inc standards. In recent years the judicial branch’s power has been eroded very badly by both the legislative and executive branches; plea-bargaining and universal criminality have handed control of the proceedings to the prosecutor (executive branch), and mandatory sentencing has allowed the legislative branch to usurp much of the remaining judicial authority. Having declared Monica guilty, the judge was bound by law to sentence her to at least 30 days, which is what he gave her. The suggested fine was $2500, but he had the authority to reduce it for hardship; he lowered it to $150. Arizona’s fascist prison system also demands a prisoner pay for his own abduction and mistreatment, to the tune of $2540.70 for 30 days; the judge used a loophole (because Monica is a student) to lower that to $350. Moreover, he deferred the sentence until the end of May so as not to interrupt her school semester, and also said he would stay the sentence if she filed an appeal within the required 14 days. If she does go to jail, it will undoubtedly be the men’s jail because this is, once again, Arizona we’re talking about; however, she would be placed in solitary confinement for the duration as she was last time and would therefore “only” be in danger of rape or assault from the guards rather than the other prisoners as well.
It goes without saying that I’m neither defending the conviction itself, nor the caging of human beings on the say-so of subhuman thugs. I’m merely pointing out that it’s foolish to expect a bean-counter to paint pictures or compose violin concertos when he is paid to (and is indeed only qualified to) count beans, and that it’s naïve in the extreme to expect anything but tyranny from the worst pocket dictatorship in America. If Monica can find lawyers to handle her appeal pro bono (or nearly so), she has a chance of winning based on a judgment of the law itself at the appellate level, but there is no guarantee of that; cases like this can work their way all the way up to the Supreme Court if the losing party has enough time and money to pursue it that far. Clearly, neither Monica herself nor SWOP has that kind of resources, and I’m not really sanguine about anyone else (like the ACLU) investing in it. The case has, however, drawn international attention and is even being watched by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights; perhaps some deep-pocketed organization will finally decide to stop dodging the issue and commit itself to sex worker rights by challenging the laws that let cops arrest virtually any woman they like without any valid reason at all.