Seattle City Council’s mandate to create a “john school” for prostitutes’ clients

Seattle City Council’s mandate to create a “john school” for prostitutes’ clients has run into a slight problem: So far, nobody’s expressed an interest in teaching it. A couple weeks ago, the city’s Human Services Department, which is responsible for implementing the idea, held an information session for potential contractors. “Nobody came,” says Terri Kimball, who runs the domestic violence program in the department. So while the city put out a request for bids to run the school, with responses due back May 29, Kimball says she doesn’t know whether she’ll get any or not. “I’m hoping somebody will turn up,” she says. “It’s a very specialized area, as you can imagine,” she says by way of explanation. As envisioned, the school will consist of one-day sessions, held monthly, that will cover material on sex addiction, STDs, the law as it relates to prostitution and, as Kimball puts it, “understanding sex workers from a sex workers’ perspective.” As in some other such schools around the county, former or current prostitutes would come to class to give johns a realistic picture of what their lives are like. Apparently, it’s easier to find people who want to work with prostitutes than with johns. The city also has a request out for bids to start a “sex worker” school–both schools are to be funded by a $150 fee the Council slapped on johns in March–and Kimball says there has been some interest by contractors in that. Some people who have worked on the issue assumed that Nature Carter would be teaching one or both of the schools. Carter is a longtime community outreach worker with various organizations, and a former prostitute herself, who at onetime taught classes to prostitutes and johns for Seattle Municipal Court. Carter says she was offered the job of running the sex worker school but turned it down, finding the amount offered to her–$450 for each one-day session–an “insult.”Meanwhile, the city has been banking other money it gets from johns because it doesn’t know what to do with it. Even before they were hit by the $150 fee, johns had to pay a fine to the city. As of March, that fee was $500, which translated into about $20,000 or $30,000 a year. The money is supposed to be used to help sex workers with such things as shelter and counseling, but Kimball says “it’s hard to do much with that amount.” In March, the Council increased the fine to $1,000 (in addition to the $150 fee). She says the city still isn’t sure what it’s going to do with the money–a rather unusual problem in this economy.