Arizona Sex Workers Given Choice Between Church Program Or Jail

| by Will Hagle

In a strange convergence of church and state, sex workers in Arizona are currently being given the choice between undergoing religious therapy or being prosecuted by the state. 

Since at least 2011, Arizona law enforcement officials have been bringing prostitutes and other sex workers to the Arizona State School of Social Work, where they are given the opportunity to undergo treatment as part of a program called Project ROSE. According to RT, the program offers “healthcare, housing, and other support services to sex workers,” and “if the women agree to the program they are not arrested and taken to jail.”

The program, however, is carried out by the Bethany Bible Church, a religious institution in Phoenix. Vice reported on the program, claiming that it unfairly funnels women into the church's program, forcing them to participate in Project ROSE even if they haven’t actually been convicted of anything. To Vice, this is a form of forcing religious ideals on sex workers rather than charging them for any crimes they may have committed. 

This opinion stems from the fact that law enforcement officials actively seek out sex workers on the streets of Phoenix, handcuff them, and take them in to the church. 

Still, many believe that Project ROSE is a successful alternative to incarceration. According to RT, an estimated “35 percent of the women who first arrive at Project ROSE eventually lead healthy, productive lives.”