January 13, 2014 - 1:08 PM
KELOWNA - A new program has been launched in the Okanagan that gives those who have been caught soliciting a prostitute the chance to have their charges dropped in exchange for taking a one-day class.
Although variants of the Prostitution Offender Program have been utilized across the country for many years, this is the first time it has been tried in the Okanagan. According to John Howard Society Executive Director Shelley Cook, it aims to tackle concerns of prostitution through education rather than punishment.
“Our program is for persons who are arrested for Communication for the Purposes of Prostitution,” she said. “We had 13 men attend what could essentially be termed a ‘John School’… to demonstrate the negative impact of sex trade involvement on communities.”
The men, all of whom have been arrested and charged with solicitation of prostitution, were given the opportunity to attend the one-day workshop in exchange for having their charges dropped.
“It’s completely voluntary. (The Program) creates a really unique learning opportunity for these men to make different choices around how to meet their personal needs.”
The ‘John School’ takes between eight to ten hours and costs $600 per person. It is funded entirely through a fee-for-service paid for by the offenders.
Of the 13 who were referred to the program by the RCMP, all of them successfully completed the program, according the Cook.
“I think very often people are not thinking about the impact of their behavior,” Cook says. “We are extremely optimistic that we will have excellent results.”
Before being accepted into the program, the men are first evaluated by members of the UBC-O Forensic Psychology department who look for cues that signify they will benefit from the information and to weed out those who are only trying to escape punishment.
Elliot Penner is the program manager for the John Howard Society. He is in charge of administering the initial evaluations of the men.
“Looking at some of the research that has been done and also looking back at the successful completion of the last program in November, I would say it’s been very effective,” he says. “Hearing back from the men themselves, it was very educational for them. (There was) a lot of stuff that they didn’t consider or knew what they were doing when they did what they did.”
The program, which took place during the month of November, is in partnership with local RCMP, John Howard Society, NOW Canada, Living Positive Resource Centre, Elizabeth Fry society, UBC Okanagan, and the Downtown Kelowna Association.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at email@example.com, call (250) 718-0428 or tweet @AdamProskiw.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014