Reducing Demand for Prostitution

Most prostitutes are women. Their clients, commonly called "johns," are almost all men. (See Men Who Use Prostitutes.)

Most arrests associated with prostitution are arrests of the women; about 10 percent are arrests of the men who purchase commercial sex.

There are several approaches to reducing the demand for prostitution. These include public awareness and education campaigns, neighborhood watch programs, and efforts by law enforcement (such as Web and street-level reverse stings, surveillance cameras, and publicizing the names and photos of johns. However, to date the only strategies qualifying as "evidence-based practices" are arrest [1] and programs, called "john school," that make customers aware of the negative consequences of prostitution. [2]

In San Francisco's john school, (the official name is the First Offender Prostitution Program), first-time offenders who agree to pay the fee and attend a one-day workshop have the charges against them dropped if they avoid rearrest for another prostitution offense for a year after they attend the class.

Learn more about the First Offender Prostitution Program in San Francisco.

An NIJ-funded evaluation of the First Offender Prostitution Program reported that the program:

  • Produced positive shifts in attitude.
  • Reduced the number of repeat johns.
  • Was cost-effective.

Over the last 12 years, the program has cost taxpayers nothing because the fees paid by offenders cover all direct costs for educating the johns. The program has also generated nearly $1 million for programs that help prostitutes start another life.

This program has been successfully replicated in other cities and counties.

Read the complete evaluation of the First Offender Prostitution Program in San Francisco (pdf, 246 pages).


[note 1] Brewer, Devon D., John J. Potterat ; Stephen Q. Muth ; John M. Roberts, Jr., A Large Specific Deterrent Effect of Arrest for Patronizing a Prostitute, sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, grant no. 2003-IJ-CX-1036, Washington, DC, National Institute of Justice, 2006.

[note 2] Shively, Michael, Sarah Kuck Jalbert, Ryan Kling, William Rhodes, Peter Finn, Chris Flygare, Laura Tierney, Dana Hunt, David Squires, Christina Dyous, and Kristin Wheeler, Final Report on the Evaluation of the First Offender Prostitution Program (pdf, 246 pages), Final report to the National Institute of Justice, grant no. 2005-DD-BX-0037. March 2008, NCJ 221894.

Date Created: September 29, 2009