In Brooklyn, N.Y., first-time offenders arrested for alleged solicitation of prostitution have the option of attending “Project Respect,” the Brooklyn John School, instead of going to trial, reports the Village Voice. The school is similar to programs in Washington, D.C.; West Palm Beach, Florida; Pittsburgh; Buffalo, and San Francisco.
In Brooklyn, if defendants show up for the class, pay the $250 tuition, and stay out of trouble for six months, the charges are dismissed. Going to court risks up to 90 days in jail. Most men, perhaps telling their wives and girlfriends they have traffic school, show up at the district attorney’s office to get scared straight for five hours, the Voice says. In the lobby they get name tags that read, in clear black letters, “Sex Crimes.” The D.A.’s office says that since the launch of the John School in 2002, only two participants have been rearrested in Brooklyn. Not everyone thinks john schools are a good investment. Juhu Thukral of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center, says that johns who get caught just turn to escort services or Internet hookups. “John schools are part of an effort to address the demand side of the industry, but it’s really just a revolving door,” she says. On the supply side, younger girls are getting into the life. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children still reports the average age of entry as 14, but advocates say that number has dropped as low as 12.