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Abt Associates Evaluates San Francisco's First Offender Program and Its "John School"

In September 2005 the National Institute of Justice awarded a grant to Abt Associates Inc. to evaluate the First Offender Prostitution Program (FOPP). The program is designed to reduce the demand for commercial sex in San Francisco by educating "customers" (or "johns") about the negative consequences of prostitution. The program is a partnership of the San Francisco District Attorney's office (SFDA), the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD), and a local nonprofit organization, Standing Against Global Exploitation (SAGE), with assistance from the San Francisco Department of Public Health and several non-governmental organizations. Men arrested for soliciting prostitutes in San Francisco are screened by the SFDA for program eligibility, and those who qualify are given the option of paying a fee and attending a one day class (known generically as the "john school") or being prosecuted. Fees partially support police operations resulting in the arrests of virtually all of the FOPP participants, and fully support processing participants and conducting the john school classes. A portion of the fee revenue also helps to support SAGE programs for women and girls involved in commercial sex. During its more than 12 years of operation as of the time of the final evaluation report (March, 1995 through January, 2008), 5,735 men had attended the FOPP's john school. The evaluation had the following primary components:

  1. A process analysis, which includes production of a program logic model, a description of the program's operations, and presentation of descriptive data on program activities and performance.
  2. An outcome evaluation, examining program impact by analyzing data on recidivism of offenders arrested for soliciting commercial sex.
  3. A cost assessment, documenting the resources required to support the program and weighing costs against the program's benefits.
  4. An assessment of the program's transferability, which explored whether the conditions exist elsewhere in the U.S. that would support successful replication or adaptation of the program.

Between September 2005 and November 2007, the evaluation team conducted:

  • Nine site visits to San Francisco.
  • 98 interviews with 31 individuals associated with the FOPP.
  • 63 interviews with 48 individuals associated with similar programs in place at 38 sites throughout the U.S.
  • Three "ride alongs" with the SFPD Narcotics/Vice Division during "reverse sting" operations, which target johns by using female officers posing as prostitutes.
  • Structured observations of all john school classes occurring from March 25, 2006 to March 24, 2007.
  • Pre- and post-class surveys of 198 FOPP participants.
  • Program document collection.
  • Web searches and reviews of professional and research literature.
  • Acquisition of data from course evaluation forms completed by 535 FOPP participants.
  • Acquisition of criminal history data on over 100,000 men arrested for soliciting prostitutes in San Francisco and throughout California from the 1970s through 2005.
  • Acquisition of data on all men screened for FOPP eligibility and all john school attendees.
  • Collection of cost data from the SFDA, SFPD, and SAGE.
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