The Woman Arrested For “Walking While Trans” Gets A New Trial

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Laverne Cox speaking alongside Monica Jones in August 2014

Last week an Arizona appeals court vacated the conviction of a transgender woman accused of being as a sex worker, casting light on a flawed local-policing campaign that’s putting trans women at high risk of incarceration.

According to Think Progress, Monica Jones was convicted of “manifestation of prostitution” after she was picked up by Phoenix police officers as part of Project ROSE, an anti-prostitution program that sweeps the streets of suspected prostitutes:

The women are picked up off the street — without actually being arrested — and they are forced to either complete a Catholic Charities-run diversion program or they are then put under arrest.

One of the reasons for its poor success rate is because any individual who has previously been arrested for sex work is ineligible for the program, thus many more women are arrested than actually “saved” from sex work.

Jones has been a vocal opponent of the program and claims she was actually speaking against it at a community event the night she was arrested in 2013, though she doesn’t directly name her advocacy as the reason for her arrest. Because she’d previously been convicted of prostitution, Jones was ineligible for the program and was later convicted for simply walking down the street, or what she calls “walking while trans.”

The appeals judge who overturned the conviction agreed that Jones had been wrongfully profiled as a transgender woman and did not receive a fair trial.

Jones’ lawyer, Jean-Jacques Cabou, said “Monica was convicted in an unconstitutional trial, under an unconstitutional law, of a crime she didn’t commit.”

On Monday, Jones celebrated the ruling but told the ACLU that it was merely a “small win in our larger fight for justice.” “There is so much more work that needs to be done o that no one will have to face what I have no matter who they are or what past convictions they have.”

Since the verdict was vacated and the charges still stand against her, Jones will return to court for a new trial, this time aided by a favorable court decision.

Feature photo: Black Youth Project

Matthew Tharrett is a writer, filmmaker, and above all else, a Britney fan. He once shared a milkshake with Selena Gomez.
@mattharrett