After I talked to Kristin about prostitution, I tried to learn about prostitution in Anchorage. The more I found out, the more it seemed we should be doing something different to stop it.
From what I can tell there are several hundred prostitutes, most women, most with addictions, who cycle in and out of the court system in Anchorage. The first few times they are arrested for prostitution, which is a misdemeanor, they don't go to jail, and instead pay fines and make court appearances. It takes a number of repeat offenses for them to go to jail. But jail doesn't really solve their problems. Most still have addiction issues and those lead them back to prostituting.
Prostitutes in Anchorage pick up clients on the street or through Craigslist, Dawn Neer, an Anchorage Police Department detective told me. The majority of them are heroin addicts who prostitute because they don't have another means of income, she said. They are looking for money for drugs.
"If you talk to them, they don’t want to be doing what they’re doing," she said. "They are so addicted they don’t have any other choice."
Men picking up prostitutes, who are arrested less frequently than prostitutes are, get their cars impounded for the first offense. For the second offense they lose their car, she said. Neer sometimes goes undercover to find men looking for prostitutes. She said it's like "shooting fish in a barrel." She has caught lawyers, engineers, a surgeon and a minister, she said.
Some communities make men with soliciting charges against them go to "john school" where they learn about the stark lives prostitutes lead. Anchorage doesn't have a program like that.
Neer had another idea to punish men who pay for sex.
"I think they should have their names posted the paper," she said.
Should we offer drug treatment to prostitutes? Should penalties for both prostitutes and men who pay for sex be higher? What do you think about the idea of john school?