Seattle Courant

Licata and Carr Squabble Over Opening New John School

By Keith Vance
March 24, 2009 09:03PM

Licata provided an excerpt from an e-mail Carr wrote that year.

"In the john school model the money goes to a class to convince the johns that prostitution is bad. There are some good things about this, but in my view the low recidivism rate for johns suggests that the arrest and contact with the criminal justice system is enough of a deterrent."

Carr confirmed that he wrote the e-mail, but he now says that he was wrong. Carr said his data at the time was showing such a low recidivism rate for johns that putting more money and resources into reducing it further would be a waste. However, there were flaws in his data, he said.

It's very difficult, he continued, to find good quantifiable research on the effects of law enforcement programs, but last year, a study by Abt Associates was released showing a much higher recidivism rate among johns and the success of john schools, such as those in San Francisco, in reducing it.

"It's scientifically supportable," he said of the report. "It's really good science."

And besides, Carr added, the city was actually running a john school, hosted by a former prostitute, until it was de-funded last year because of an accounting issue.

Even so, Licata was apparently ahead of Carr in seeing the value of john schools. Back in 2007, he said he worked with Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, to pass Senate bill 5718 to impose penalties for engaging in the commercial abuse of of minors. Licata said he supported the legislation because he wanted to do two things: setup a safe houses for minors transitioning out of the sex trade and fund a john school.

Not funding a john school, according to Licata, should never have been an option in the first place because Seattle municipal code mandates a john school-like curriculum for johns, paid for by johns. In 2007, Licata pushed for a new fee to pay for a john school, but his proposal was shot down. As a compromise the council agreed to a proviso to hold back money in Sex Industry Victims Fund until there was a "joint recommendation from Human Services Dept, Seattle Municipal Court and the City Attorney to the City Council together with any legislative changes necessary to fund this mandatory counseling."

Carr said that until this year, he's never heard of any legislation to fund a john school in Seattle. He said he's seen press releases, but no legislative action on the part of the City Council. In response to Licata's remarks about him opposing john schools and now doing a full reversal on this issue: "It's horse hockey."

Regardless of who gets the credit, Licata seems pleased. "This is a great piece of legislation."

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You can read more about john schools and the Abt Associate report here.
Read the bill passed by the Seattle City Council yesterday to create john schools here.