AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Travis County Attorney’s Office is hoping to complete its efforts to prevent prostitution crime by implementing an intervention education program for men arrested for soliciting illegal commercial sex.
In 2015, the county started a prostitution prevention court, funded by the Governor’s Office, known as the Phoenix Court.
“At that time, the vision was to have a court that served both sides of that issue,” explained Roger Jefferies, county executive for Justice and Public Safety in Travis County. Now, the county wants to fulfill the other side to that program.
The proposed program, called the John School, is designed to be a more holistic approach to prosecuting and eventually, deterring prostitution crime. According to county documents, “Travis County has been arresting and prosecuting the solicitation of prostitutes with little long-term effect.” The current protocol of prosecution, the county says, does not deter future solicitation criminal activity.
Further, as written in the commissioners court agenda, “One of the goals of a prostitution solicitation diversion program is to reeducate and equip the offenders to stop the high-risk behavior of purchasing sex.”
The best approach, Jefferies argues, is combining an arrest with intervention treatment through education.
“Often, people are arrested, they’re thrown into jail without any sort of intervention, and they’re back out on the street purchasing commercial sex again,” said Jefferies. “We’re hoping that this will be an intervention at the beginning that will assist in helping these perpetrators of this crime, that their actions do have an impact on themselves, on the victims, the prostitutes and on our community.”
The John School program would be another option for first-time offenders arrested for the crime to avoid jail time. The program is comprised of an eight hour class that costs $250. Those funds are slated to go toward helping victims of prostitution.
“It’s a curriculum that talks about the impacts on their health, impacts on their families, impacts on the community, the negative effects that prostitution has on these women and girls who are being prostituted,” Jefferies said.
The proposed Prostitution Solicitation Deterrent Class is outlined and divided into six topics. They are:
- Prostitution Law and Street Facts
- Health Education
- Effect of Prostitution on Prostitutes
- Dynamics of Pimping, Recruiting, and Trafficking
- Effect of Prostitution on the Community, and
- Sexual Addiction.
As part of the program, the Travis Co. Attorneys Office would offer Deferred Adjudication on Probation with the class as a condition. The alternative to the course is 30 days in jail. If program participants complete the course successfully, they would not be convicted of the crime. However, we’re told there would still be a record of the prostitution arrest, if and until the person petitions to have it expunged from his record.
County representatives believe the program would serve more than 160 offenders per year. “It’s going to hopefully have a positive impact on these people who are purchasing commercial sex, and it will prevent some bad things from happening to people who are prostituting,” said Jefferies.
Travis County Commissioners Court will hear the measure on Tuesday during their next commissioners meeting. The program would not require funding.
The county has looked to other jurisdictions across the nation that have implemented the John School program as examples. Below is a list of municipalities who have the program and provided details concerning its specific implementation.