What we need to learn is not to make it again. Some had tried picking up women on the street. Police said others had arranged dates online and unknowingly walked into sting operations.
Sex, cash and the law brought this eclectic group together, men who appeared to come from all walks of life. They wore muddied boots, Air Jordans, loafers and plain white sneakers. They were young and gray-whiskered. And they shared a goal: By completing this three-hour diversion class, they could erase an embarrassing mark of prostitution from future background checks. Instead, their records would show a disturbing the peace conviction.
For one year-old attendee, the choice was obvious. All 28 asked that their faces not be shown in photos, and those interviewed asked that their names not be used. Still, the air was uncomfortable. Wives dropped off husbands. Men slouched in chairs or stared at the floor.
Two guys rocked back and forth with bloodshot eyes. Prosecutors just wanted them to sit back, listen and learn about the impacts of the low-level crime they had committed. Police and the courts had done their part. This was a voluntary intervention. Similar classes are offered to first-time offenders in Los Angeles, San Francisco and dozens of other cities across the nation. Area police rarely arrest men on suspicion of solicitation, and prosecutors rarely receive the cases.
The vast majority of arrests are women. Prosecutors normally organize the program in other places. Anthony Bertagna said the john school concept sounded interesting and could be worth examining. However, Bertagna added, that review should be spearheaded by the district attorney and the courts.
In previous interviews about strategies to reduce prostitution, Orange County District Attorney Chief of Staff Susan Schroeder has said that the office provides a better option than a john school and that it cuts crime by reducing repeat offenders. Like a john school, the program allows men to have solicitation erased from their criminal records. The Orange County class covers many different topics and includes many different kinds of offenders, not only men accused of solicitation.
He was driving home from work, and a female pedestrian waved him down. I just try to stay away from problems. The woman got into his car, and he parked a block away. Then, he said, police lights flashed behind him and the pedestrian identified herself as an undercover officer.
By completing the diversion class, he hopes she will never learn about that night and he can put the incident behind him. Roman, the San Diego police officer, said this is a familiar story among attendees. The guys with families seem to take the classes to heart. But experts say the industry is ripe with exploitation and attracts more serious problems like robbery and murder into the community. A former prostitute told the 28 men about being raped and assaulted on the streets.
A San Diego vice sergeant talked about the intertwining relationship among prostitutes, pimps and street gangs. One San Diego resident talked about finding used condoms on her lawn and fearing neighborhood children would be solicited for sex.
And at the end, the men viewed a graphic presentation about sexually transmitted diseases. Aside from getting caught by police or assaulted by prostitutes, the men were told, they were risking lifelong discomfort or worse. Several guests observed the class. He wants to expand the program to Vista, a small suburb about 40 miles north of downtown San Diego. Although deputies arrest just a few dozen men for solicitation in Vista each year, Christiansen said he is interested in testing out the john school concept.
He said the current penalties seemed inadequate. Measuring the impact of any crime-fighting strategy is tricky. With john schools, researchers have generally examined the frequency of repeat offenses.
In , researchers found the rate of repeat offenses had dropped by 40 percent among men who completed the john school. Department of Justice, concluded. The study, skeptics note, showed that john schools target a population where repeat offenses are already uncommon. Among first-time offenders, the study found about 8. In San Diego, the rate of repeat offenses is similarly low among men who complete the class.
Out of graduates between and , organizers said, about 3. Despite these questions, however, john schools have become popular among cities. At the very least, they bring law-enforcement authorities, victim advocates and residents together to address a shared concern. In written feedback forms, the men who completed the class also seemed to appreciate the opportunity. Some encouraged organizers to expand the program, offer classes in Spanish and add voices like a former pimp to the panel.
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