Audit faults S.F. D.A.’s prostitution program

John Coté, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, September 20, 2009

The program operated by the San Francisco district attorney’s office targeting customers of prostitutes has ill-defined goals and no way to determine its effectiveness, according to a new audit by the city’s budget analyst.

Despite being touted as a national model that comes at no cost to taxpayers, the audit said the program didn’t cover its expenses in each of the last five years, leading to a $270,000 shortfall.

The program has first-time offenders arrested for soliciting a prostitute pay as much as $1,000 for a one-day class taught by sex-trafficking experts, former prostitutes and others in exchange for having the misdemeanor charge dropped. The program was $49,000 in the red last year, the audit said. Continue reading

S. Korea gets high marks for sex-trade crackdown

Japan ranks lower in new U.S. report

By Teri Weaver , Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Sunday, June 8, 2008

TOKYO — For the seventh straight year, South Korea ranked in the most responsible category among foreign countries for its efforts to stop human trafficking, according to an annual U.S. State Department report.

Japan, for the fourth straight year, ranked in a lesser category in the Trafficking in Persons Report, issued last week.

The study measures human trafficking in more than 170 countries. It’s a trade that the United Nations estimates involves 12.3 million people.

The yearly review weighs governments’ efforts against results in reducing trafficking, and in some cases it awards a better designation for anti-trafficking laws rather than recognizing the relative size of the problem.

South Korea was ranked again as “Tier 1,” though it remains a source for trafficked women and girls to the United States, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and parts of Europe. The country also plays a role in a sex trade — sometimes in the form of arranged marriages — from countries throughout Asia and Russia, the report said.

Yet the study praised South Korea for its acknowledgment of problems and its crackdowns of known trade brokers, the $19 million spent on shelters for victims, and a 24-hour hot line run by local police.

It also lauded the country’s willingness to punish its citizens who engage in child sex tourism abroad, including last year’s public campaigns that told travelers: “Don’t be an Ugly Korean.”

The report, a yearly requirement by Congress since 2000, also commended Japan for efforts to improve its laws that guard against forced labor and sex trafficking.

But the report said Japan, ranked as “Tier 2,” still does not offer adequate protections for victims. And it criticized Japan for a continued decline in trafficking prosecutions while at the same time noting aggressive investigations have forced criminal activity from plain sight.

“Some observers attribute the decline in identified victims to the difficulty of investigating sex businesses that are increasingly moving underground due to police crackdowns on red-light districts in major cities,” the report read.

The report also noted recent reports by labor activists and the Japanese media about abuses in a government-run foreign trainee program. No companies involved in the scandal were penalized, the report said.

In 2002, South Korea — and U.S. forces stationed there — faced harsh scrutiny after media reported servicemembers were buying sex from trafficked women. Since then, U.S. Forces Korea has established hot lines, placed some well-known prostitution districts off-limits and conducted joint patrols with Korean police.

South Korea itself has passed an anti-prostitution law that punishes the customer and the broker, rather than the sex worker. Convicted customers must attend one-day seminars about prostitution, and more than 15,000 people have attended, the report says.

More recently, South Korea signed on with other countries to regulate the admittance of foreign workers, rather than relying on private agencies.

All overseas U.S. military members receive “trafficking in persons” training, according to James Brophy, the force-protection officer for U.S. Forces Japan. The course hits four major points: origins, detection, and U.S. and Defense Department policies and regulations governing human trafficking.

Legalize Selling Your Body, Criminalize Buying It: Ann Woolner

Commentary by Ann Woolner

May 9 (Bloomberg) — Deborah Jeane Palfrey chose death over prison, where she would have spent years for laundering money and racketeering as the D.C. Madam.

She called herself the target of a “modern-day lynching” in a note she wrote before hanging herself in Florida last week.

Was Palfrey a victim of puritanical laws criminalizing a harmless and inevitable business? Or, however undeserving of death, did she earn those years behind bars for profiting off the sale of human flesh to pleasure others?

There are those who argue that Palfrey’s prosecution and the call-girl scandal that drove Eliot Spitzer from office were outrageous wastes of taxpayer money bringing unfair, even tragic, results.

They contend the sale of sex is inevitable, so you might as well legalize it, clean it up and tax it. Bring it out of the shadows to protect prostitutes and clients against disease and brutality. Mobsters and traffickers would have no place in a legal enterprise.

The problem with this argument is that none of it is true. Prostitution isn’t so inevitable that it can’t be curbed, as evidenced by creative attempts to do so.

Prostitution, in fact, has victims and plenty of them. It is a rare working girl who hasn’t been beaten, raped, robbed, coerced, exploited, trafficked or essentially enslaved. Often they enter the business barely teenagers who have been sexually or otherwise abused

Those ills aren’t eased by legalizing or regulating it. Places that have tried it found that de-criminalizing the flesh business encourages human trafficking and boosts the presence of organized crime, according to studies. There is no drop in brutality, either, and some indication it increases.

Sex Industry

“Anyone contemplating such a move has to accept that it means an expansion of the sex industry — both the legal and illegal sectors,” concluded an exhaustive 2003 study by the London Metropolitan University.

“Legalisation is a `pull factor’ for traffickers,” says the study, “A Critical Examination of Responses to Prostitution in Four Countries.” Those countries are Australia, Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Legal brothels beget illegal brothels to the point that the unlicensed venues far outnumber those that are government- approved. Both are staffed at least in part by girls and women shipped in from poor circumstances and essentially indentured to whoever brought them in or works them.

And where adult prostitution flourishes, so does child prostitution. That is on the rise in the Netherlands, the most liberal of the nations studied.

Different Approach

Only in Sweden, which took a different approach, did a change of law help.

That country in 1999 made it legal to sell your own body for sex, and criminal to sell someone else’s body or to buy sex.

The idea is to attack the demand for prostitution and stop those who profit from other people’s bodies. This reverses the usual approach, which lands the prostitute in jail while letting the john and the pimp go.

For the Swedish prostitute, there are substance abuse and other programs to help them leave sex work without punishing them. And by going after johns, law enforcement has a way to leverage their cooperation toward finding traffickers.

The law has sliced in half the number of street prostitutes and cut the number of customers by 80 percent, while foreign women have essentially disappeared, according to the 2003 study.

A key to success is an attitudinal shift. In Sweden, prostitution “is officially acknowledged as a form of exploitation of women and children” which is “harmful not only to the individual prostituted but also to society at large,” the government said in a 2003 fact sheet on the issue.

Experiencing Violence

That philosophy is anathema to women who say they should be free to choose sex work and don’t need rescuing based on some paternalistic notion that they are victims. But those who have chosen to enter and stay in prostitution constitute a relatively small portion by all indications.

Even high-end call girls experience more violence, more drug addiction and certainly more degradation than the average woman.

Women buy sex, too, of course. And then there is the matter of same-sex prostitution. But the most prevalent and likely the most abusive form occurs when men buy sex from women. We will save for another time the other permutations.

Audaciously, Sweden hopes to eliminate prostitution and encourage other nations to follow suit.

Impossible? A 13-year-old program in San Francisco aimed at johns arrested for the first time offers five hours of classes in how prostitution can hurt them, the community and the prostitute herself.

New Study

That changed attitudes and, more dramatically, conduct, according to a new study conducted for the Justice Department by consultants Abt Associates Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The recidivism rate was signficantly lower for those completing the so-called School for Johns than for first-time offenders who didn’t take the course. In fact, consultants at first didn’t believe that finding, says senior researcher Michael Shively.

“We tried to make it go away” by applying various theories and statistics to challenge the results, he says. But “the quality of the data and amount of the data is very strong,” he says. It leads to only one conclusion: education keeps some men from returning to prostitutes.

“I don’t think anyone would expect it to go away completely,” he says. That “doesn’t mean you throw up your hands and make it legal.”

There are too many victims for that.

(Ann Woolner is a Bloomberg news columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the writer of this column: Ann Woolner in Atlanta at

Last Updated: May 9, 2008 00:04 EDT

Johns range from 16 to 100

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John school unfair to sex trade, critic says

Monday, April 14, 2008

Local advocates for sex workers say the city’s “john school” program, which is partly responsible for reducing the recidivism rate among men arrested for soliciting street prostitutes in San Francisco according to a new federal study, should be closed because it stigmatizes prostitution and unfairly targets low-income men.

Carol Leigh, director of the Bay Area Sex Worker Advocacy Network, which aims to increase safety and conditions among sex workers, has been advocating for the decriminalization of prostitution since the late ’70s. Leigh is also a member of Sex Worker Outreach Project, which authored an initiative in Berkeley to decriminalize prostitution in 2004 that ultimately failed at the ballot box.

Leigh said the city’s john school, known formally as the First Offender Prostitution Program, uses scare tactics during its six-hour seminars and presents a lopsided view of the sex trade.

“We shouldn’t be increasing guilt around sexuality,” Leigh said. “We shouldn’t be promoting criminalization. … At the school, they’re not representing prostitution in its entirety. There’s quite a diversity of attitudes toward sex work in the city, and the schools only present one view – that women are angry toward their clients. It’s very problematic that the city is calling this education.”

Leigh added that while some women are indeed trafficked into sex work and exploited, trafficking is an extreme condition. Some women chose the line of work, yet even then, there is still abuse and violation of prostitute’s rights by police officers and johns.

“I think clients should be educated to this, but not in a punitive context,” she said.

Stephanie Adraktas, director of the Criminal Defender Clinic at the former New College of California, who along with students represented men arrested in stings connected to the First Offender Prostitute Program, said many of her clients were low-income earners with limited English skills. Adraktas said her clients had difficulty posting the $1,000 fee to attend the john school so that charges against them could be dropped.

Adraktas, who has not attended a john school course, was skeptical that a daylong seminar served as a deterrent to revisiting prostitutes.

“I would say charging men $1,000 has a deterrent effect, being arrested has a deterrent effect. But sitting through a one-day meeting – it’s kind of naive to think that will have an effect.”

In 2006, as a response to the growing popularity of municipal john schools, which now number 39 nationally, an Oakland resident co-founded Sex Work Enthusiasts Education Training, or S.W.E.E.T. School for Johns, to educate men who seek out prostitutes.

Bacchus – who does not use a first name – said he started the school for men like himself who visit Nevada prostitutes. The course teaches men how to negotiate requests and practice safe sex. “We weren’t promoting an illegal activity,” Bacchus said. “We we’re saying, ‘If you’re interested in engaging a professional sex worker, here’s how you go about it.’ ”

The first meeting attracted 25 clients in its first year in 2006, Bacchus said, including two men who were signed up by their wives.

“They sent their husbands because they knew their husbands were unhappy in their own beds,” he said.

Bacchus, 56, added another seminar in 2007 during the Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival in San Francisco last year.

“I was hoping people would be clamoring for it,” Bacchus said. “But it’s just not so.”

For more information about the Sex Worker’s Outreach Project, go to:

E-mail Justin Berton at

This article appeared on page A – 14 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Spitzer fall renews prostitution debate

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Many cities believe targeting johns to cut demand is the best way
The Associated Press
updated 5:17 p.m. PT, Sat., March. 15, 2008

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NEW YORK – On the Web, on billboards, on television and in newspapers, men who solicit prostitutes are being shamed across the country.

The spectacular fall of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer may have been the ultimate form of public humiliation over a prostitute, but it also renewed the debate over how cities should deal with the world’s oldest profession.

Many cities believe targeting johns to cut demand is the best way, among them Chicago, Raleigh and Durham, N.C., and Arlington, Texas, where pictures of those arrested for soliciting prostitutes have been posted on police Web sites. Other cities that have tried the shame approach include St. Paul, Minn., Chattanooga, Tenn.; Cincinnati, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Knoxville, Tenn., and Omaha, Neb.

Some cities have seized the cars of those who solicit sex. Some have sent “Dear john” letters to their homes so their families can learn what they’ve done.

Such crackdowns can backfire, though. In Kansas City, officials posted pictures of men arrested in prostitution cases on TV, but stopped the practice. Police Capt. Rich Lockhart said the program was a success at first, snaring some local lawyers and ministers.

“It actually was quite effective, especially initially,” he said.

But as the affluent and educated learned of the dangers, police found they were arresting more street people as customers in the city’s prostitution-infested areas.

“The problem’s always there,” he said. “We didn’t arrest any fewer people. We just arrested different people. It’s one of those problems that’s not going to go away.”

He said the effort to curb prostitution is “a little like being on the hamster wheel. It’s very tiring at times.”

School to prevent recidivism
Other cities have required men to stay out of areas where prostitution flourishes or to attend schools like the one Norma Hotaling formed in San Francisco.

A one-time prostitute, Hotaling started SAGE (Stand Against Global Exploitation) 13 years ago, and the organization runs a class aimed at preventing recidivism among the clients of prostitutes. The program educates first-time offenders about the dangers of prostitution and trains them to build real intimacy out of their fragile personal relationships.

Michael Shively recently presented preliminary results of research he did for the National Institute for Justice on the effectiveness of Hotaling’s program. Shively, who works for a social science research company in Massachusetts, found the program reduced recidivism and was cost-effective since fees were paid by offenders.

He said his two-year study also had identified about 200 communities nationwide “that do some kind of a shaming effort.”

“Most of it is posting in the newspaper or on a Web site the name and sometimes more information, sometimes pictures, of people who get arrested. Far more do it for the prostitutes,” he said.

Hotaling said she prefers education of prostitution clients and opposes publicly shaming customers to combat prostitution because it shames their families too.

“Regular guys cross the line into prostitution without blinking an eye,” said Hotaling.

‘Laws breed hypocrisy’
Carol Leigh, a San Francisco sex worker rights activist, said Spitzer’s fall — he resigned last week, days after being outed as a client of a high-dollar prostitution ring — was more proof that government should decriminalize prostitution to protect sex industry workers.

“These laws breed hypocrisy,” she said, finding some sympathy for Spitzer even though he had worked to increase penalties against the customers of prostitutes.

David Bigeleisen, a San Francisco criminal defense lawyer, said he has been working to propose legislation to permit prostitution houses in California to be licensed or zoned like taverns.

“Sunlight is better than darkness on this. You wouldn’t have to have a bordello in the same neighborhood as a school,” he said. “Laws against prostitution don’t have much effect stopping prostitution but they put it underground and it results in a lot of exploitation of women.”

In New York, attorney Ron Kuby said the criminal justice system might not be ready for tougher laws, the kind Spitzer advocated.

“Most judges regard prostitution as a largely harmless vice, a commercial transaction for sex,” he said. “What’s the difference between that and a noncommercial transaction for sex? Kristen making $2,700 an hour with her clothes off, and the people who complain wouldn’t mind if she was making minimum wage mucking out toilets with her clothes on.”

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