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D.C. starts ‘john school’ for offenders

(Published July 30, 2001)

The Metropolitan Police Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the D.C. Department of Health and Probation Services recently joined together to launch a "John School" as a diversion for first-time offenders who solicit prostitutes in the district.

The all-day session, which met for the first time in late July, included talks and discussions with former prostitutes, health professionals, psychologists, community leaders and law enforcers.

The John School, which is planned to take place every other month, aims to reduce recidivism. "Instead of shaming the johns, the program tries to inform them how soliciting prostitution affects the entire community," said Caroline Nicholl, the coordinator of the Metropolitan Police Department’s anti-street prostitution program.

The school was a success, Nicholl said, because many of the 10 men who attended were very appreciative and left saying, "I won’t do this again."

At the time of arraignment, the offenders have the option of completing the program or being prosecuted. After completing the program, if they are not arrested for prostitution again within six months, the charges are dropped.

Offenders must pay $300 to attend the John School. These money goes toward a diversion program for prostitutes that is planned to begin in late August. The program is planned to include a one-year residential program and a three-month non-residential program for prostitutes wishing for rehabilitation.

"We all have images of what a john or a prostitute looks like," Nicholl said. "But they are human beings. And the purpose of the program is to help them plan their lives so that their future looks better."—Julie Bellamy

Copyright 2001, The Common Denominator