Education & Human Trafficking

Jun 08, 2021

For the last year or so, I have been running a task force through the Women In International Security. This task force has been focused on understanding the world of Human Trafficking. I am lucky enough to direct some of the more brilliant minds in the security community to research this subject and share all that we are learning with a larger audience. Below is part of what we have begun to uncover regarding John Schools. A proposed solution that I didn’t know existed until recently. Let us know what your thoughts are on this subject.

Introduction to John Schools

Despite the lack of accurate statistics to truly understand the volume of prostitution, it has been acknowledged that the demand for prostitution has been increasing throughout the years. Prostitution is generally illegal throughout the world and in the United States. Criminal punishments are granted to those who get caught participating in the act of exchanging money for sexual favors. Within the U.S., punishments vary from state to state, and a person may be penalized under a misdemeanor in some jurisdictions, and under a serious offense in others. In an effort to combat the rise in prostitution, the focus has shifted from punishing the sex workers to rehabilitating the clients, known as “Johns”.  John schools are programs that aim to educate johns who have been arrested as a result of engaging with prostitutes. The curriculum of these programs is geared towards educating johns on the harms and issues associated with these actions to decrease the demand for prostitution [1]. 

John schools are an alternative to prosecution and criminal sentencing and are typically offered to first time offenders. These programs are also sometimes offered to offenders as an alternative to probation [2]. John schools can be found throughout the U.S. operating in several states with the same ultimate goal of eliminating the demand for prostitution. The variety of programs within the states can be as brief as one day, or last as long as 10 weeks. Although some john schools are more intense than others, the programs usually cover the topics of anger management, how prostitution has an effect on the increase of human trafficking, the composition of healthy relationships, and coping with sexual addiction. Programs also dissect the risks johns impose on themselves and their families each time they engage with prostitution and the related crimes they fund through their purchases [3]. These programs have seen varying degrees of success, but success, nonetheless. Men who have attended john schools have learned to accept responsibility for their actions and are less likely to repeat their offense. Recidivism rates of less than 1% have been reported for johns who participated in one day programs in Brookyln, San Fransisco, and Minneapolis [4]. Seattle is home to one of the most intense 10-week john schools, and 95% of those who graduate say they don’t think they’ll ever buy sex again [5]. 

John schools show great promise to decrease the demand for prostitution by johns. The downside is that the programs are only offered to those who have been caught after their thoughts and actions led them down the road of paying for sex. How do we go a step further and engage in a preventative program that educates young men and women of the risks and harms that accompany prostitution?

Sex education in public schools in the U.S. varies across states because there is no federal policy that requires it.  Many schools follow some sort of state guidelines, but the ultimate decision is left to the school administration. The curriculums typically fall into 1 of 3 categories: abstinence-only, abstinence-plus, or comprehensive. Abstinence-only programs stress that abstinence is a norm for teens, and they do not explain contraceptive use. Abstinence-plus goes one step further than abstinence-only and teaches about contraceptive and barrier protection. Comprehensive sex education is the most detailed, diving into medically accurate information and covering topics of abstinence, safe sex, STDs, unintended pregnancy, contraception, condom use, consent, relationships, intimate partner violence, sexual orientation, and gender [6]. Comprehensive sex education is the most beneficial to the students as they are exposed to a wealth of topics opposed to the alternative of focusing on abstinence. 

Comprehensive sex education may be the door opening to preventative education about sex that gives young men and women the knowledge and confidence they need to prevent a future entanglement with prostitution. The opportunities to educate from a preventative standpoint are present. Now, we must determine how to best carry out that educational curriculum – is it from a comprehensive sex education perspective, a john school perspective, a combination of the 2, or something completely new? Something that may assist in figuring out how to approach this issue is to dissect the reasons that men and women seek prostitution in the first place. There has been research on pornography as an addictive product, comparable to drug and alcohol addiction. Experts from across the country have explained how pornography and its easy access can negatively impact future relationships, sexual experiences, and brain development for youth. 

Researcher:  Georgia Verrastro  


[1] Gurd A, O’Brien E. Californian ‘John Schools’ and the Social Construction of Prostitution. Sexuality Research and Social Policy. 2013;10(2):149–58. 

[2] Sex Trade Offender Program [Internet]. CEASE Center to End All Sexual Exploitation; 2015 [cited 2021May31]. Available from: 

[3] John Schools: A practical, cost-effective way to reduce demand [Internet]. Demand Abolition. 2017 [cited 2021May31]. Available from: 

[4] Overview of John Schools and Justification for Further Research in Ohio. Office of Criminal Justice Statistics. 2015 [cited 2021 May 31]. Available from:,increased%20penalties%20for%20purchasers%20of%20commercial%20sex.%201

[5] John Schools: A practical, cost-effective way to reduce demand [Internet]. Demand Abolition. 2017 [cited 2021May31]. Available from: 

[6] Maziarz LN, Dake JA, Glassman T. Sex Education, Condom Access, and Contraceptive Referral in U.S. High Schools. The Journal of School Nursing. 2019;36(5):325–9. 

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