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San Francisco Implements First Offender Prostitution Program

Known by the much-less-elegant term of “john school” by some, the City of San Francisco has implemented a court diversion program with an actual name of First Offender Prostitution Program (FOPP). The program’s goal is to lessen the demand for commercial sexual exploitation in the Bay Area by reducing recidivism among those who solicit prostitutes. The program was brought to fruition by Terri Jackson, California Superior Court Judge, Norma Hotaling, founder of the SAGE (Standing Against Global Exploitation) project and SF Police Dept. Lieutenant, Joe Dutto.

After growing tired of policies which have failed miserably to address the many problems created by the sex industry, the three determined to come up with solutions. Believing education was the key—rather than shame or punishment—a strategy was born. The First Offender Prostitution Program is a unique diversion program for those who are arrested for the first time for soliciting prostitution. While receiving funding from SAGE, the SFPD and the SF District Attorney’s Office, the program was designed as a self-sustaining model, using fees from participant’s to fund the expenses.

The Theory Behind the Program

The founders of FOPP believed strongly that everyone caught soliciting a prostitute came to that action with different fears, triggers and motivations. The underlying theory of the entire program is that if men were made aware of the impact of their behaviors, as well as the risks, they would not continue to solicit prostitutes. The program operates under the belief that every person is capable of taking responsibility for their own actions, particularly when those actions harm others in their community.

The FOPP program requires participants to do the following:

  • Acknowledge that all those affected by the person’s behavior were harmed;
  • Acknowledge that better choices could have been made;
  • Take specific actions (when appropriate and possible) to repair the harm, and
  • Make needed changes in order to avoid harmful behaviors in the future.

First time offenders are the target of the FOPP Program in order to intervene early and dispel misconceptions about those in the commercial sex industry. Most of those who solicit a prostitute have no real understanding of why people enter the commercial sex industry and how it is experienced from the “other side.”

The Legal Side of the FOPP Program

When a person with no prior adult criminal contact is charged with 647(a), 647(b) or section 653.22 of the California to completely bypass the California court systems through participation in a one-day course (“john school”). The participant is required to pay a fee for the course, however the $350-$1,000 fee is determined on an income-based sliding scale.

The FOPP course is offered every six to eight weeks and is operated by SAGE staff members as well as guest presenters from the DA’s Office, members of the SFPD, volunteer nurses and even those who are recovering sex addicts. Many times the program will also include survivors of sexual exploitation who will talk to participants about trauma, early sexual abuse, human trafficking, and the objectification of other human beings. Because the program is an alternative to legal prosecution, it has an additional benefit of reducing the demand on already-overburdened courtrooms.

If you are facing allegations of soliciting a prostitute, do not wait to contact our Oakland sex crime lawyer. We are here to help defend your future. Call (510) 907-6600 to set up a consult with the Law Office of Nabiel C. Ahmed.

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