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February 26, 2009

"Shaming and scaring johns into becoming average joes"

The title of this post is the headline of this interesting article in today's Los Angeles Times.  The sub-title of this article describes the basics: "L.A. tests a program for men caught soliciting prostitutes, giving them some reasons not to reoffend. It's like traffic school, but the stakes are higher and the presentations are squirm-inducing."  Here are snippets from the story:

This is john school, a new effort by law enforcement officials to stem prostitution in Los Angeles. Built on the belief that a heavy dose of in-your-face shame and scare tactics can do more to dissuade men from looking to the streets for gratification than traditional punishment, the class -- think traffic school with higher stakes -- offers first-time offenders leniency in exchange for a promise that they will change their ways. It is the latest example of how prosecutors and police around the country are rethinking their strategies in the age-old battle against prostitution.

"I've arrested hundreds of street walkers and busted countless tricks," said Margolis, who spent nearly three decades working in the Los Angeles Police Department's vice squad. "All those years, we'd send them to court, they'd pay a fine, spend maybe a day or two in jail and then be on their way.

"We're never going to arrest our way out of this problem and we're never going to stop it altogether. But we can try to educate johns about the dangers to themselves and about the violence the women face. Hopefully we can reduce the demand."

Launched recently by the Los Angeles city attorney's office, the Prostitution Diversion Program currently targets only those johns nabbed by the LAPD along a cheerless stretch of Figueroa Boulevard pockmarked by liquor stores and cheap motels -- one of the city's epicenters for street-walking prostitutes. There are tentative plans to expand the class citywide if the pilot program proves successful, said Sonja Dawson, the no-nonsense city prosecutor who helped start the program.

If this approach works effectively for those who seek illegal sex, perhaps someone smart will consider  expanding the program to also bring in those who seek illegal drugs and  illegal rock-and-roll.

February 26, 2009 at 05:30 PM | Permalink


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It already exists in CA in the form of Prop 36 and PC 1000. Success rates in each program hover around 33%.

Posted by: Large County Prosecutor | Feb 26, 2009 5:40:39 PM

With all due respect, evidently, the Large County Prosecutor isn't in Santa Barbara County.

"Part of the reason Santa Barbara County has succeeded, Flores posited, is that the judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation officers, and treatment providers have been working together. But now that there’s less bread on the table, these allies are at risk of becoming adversaries. For example, some grumble that judges and probation officers will not lose funds, only the nonprofit treatment providers. Without this cooperation, Flores said, the addicts will not do as well."

Posted by: George | Feb 26, 2009 6:05:08 PM

Whatever you do, don't show this to the people in Massachusetts!!

Posted by: Daniel | Feb 26, 2009 6:53:40 PM

Have these people been told that they can engage in the same conduct legally as long as they travel to Nevada? If California would follow the path of careful regulation instead of criminalization, it would advance much further in the goal of preventing most of the harms taught by the program than it is advancing now by allowing a few first time offenders to be dangled a mixed carrot and stick package. And California can help itself emerge from its all-but-in-name bankruptcy through the combination of savings from prostitution relation incarceration costs and revenue from taxes on state brothels.

Posted by: Automated Program | Feb 26, 2009 8:12:21 PM

Folks, it's a three-thousand-year-old losing battle:

"Now Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her."

Judges 16:1

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Feb 27, 2009 2:56:32 PM

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