The Los Angeles Times visits “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 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 are rethinking their strategies in the age-old battle against prostitution.
“I’ve arrested hundreds of street walkers and busted countless tricks,” said Bill 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 by the Los Angeles city attorney’s office, the Prostitution Diversion Program targets johns nabbed along a stretch of Figueroa Boulevard pockmarked by liquor stores and cheap motels — one of the city’s epicenters for street-walking prostitutes.