Before Rachel left Chicago to work at Case Western Reserve University’s Begun Center for Violence Prevention Education and Research, she put the finishing touches on this report, authored with Ann Jordan of the Rights Work Initiative at American University. We welcome your comments.
Do John Schools Really Decrease Recidivism?
A methodological critique of an evaluation of the San Francisco First Offender Prostitution Program
by Rachel Lovell and Ann Jordan
A growing number of governments are creating “john schools” in the belief that providing men with information about prostitution will stop them from buying sex, which will in turn stop prostitution and trafficking. John schools typically offer men arrested for soliciting paid sex the opportunity (for a fee) to attend lectures by health experts, law enforcement and former sex workers in exchange for cleared arrest records if they are not re-arrested within a certain period of time. A 2008 examination of the San Francisco john school, “Final Report on the Evaluation of the First Offender Prostitution Program,” claims to be the first study to prove that attending a john school leads to a lower rate of recidivism or re-arrest (Shively et al.). Despite its claims, the report offers no reliable evidence that the john school classes reduce the rate of re-arrests.
This paper analyzes the methodology and data used in the San Francisco study and concludes that serious flaws in the research design led the researchers to claim a large drop in re-arrest rates that, in fact, occurred before the john school was implemented.