AUSTIN (KXAN) — Travis County commissioners voted Tuesday to start a so-called “John School,” which is aimed at educating men arrested for paying for sex.
The John School program would be another option for first-time offenders arrested for the crime to avoid jail time, as we previously reported. The program is comprised of an eight hour class that costs $250. Those funds are slated to go toward helping victims of prostitution. The school is not open to people who commit crimes involving minors.
To get a better idea of if these kinds schools work, we looked to San Francisco.
“The one place where we had the data available to really look at this with solid science, there was a profound positive impact of the program,” said Michael Shively, Ph.D.
Shively is a senior analyst at private research firm Abt Associates. He studied the program in San Francisco and worked on a report called “An Overview of John Schools in the United States,” which was supported by the National Institute of Justice.
Shively says the rate of men re-offending was just about cut in half after classes in San Francisco, from 8.8 percent to 4.5 percent. Researchers even had access to statewide data to help rule out some of the other factors that could have caused the drop. “We were able to say that the program had a substantial impact, that the recidivism rates in San Francisco fell immediately and sharply after they started the program,” said Shively.
The overview report also mentions a study of a program in Portland, Oregon, but states that researchers didn’t have a large enough number of arrests to examine. The data couldn’t produce a clear conclusion, the overview report noted.
“The program has a lot of unanswered questions. So I wasn’t willing to vote today,” said Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, Precinct 3.
Daugherty voted against the new “John School”. He says he wants to examine possible costs to the county and he wants to take a closer look at if these programs work.
County staff project that the fees should cover the costs of the classes. The fees should also generate money for the Phoenix Court. That court is designed for people who have been arrested for prostitution and are seeking to change their lives.