Thursday, February 26, 2009

L.A. Times: Shaming Johns

This looks like another variation of the "scared straight" scams that are shown not to change impulsive behavior....

At first glance, it seems these schools shouldn't work, said Michael Shively, a researcher who recently completed the first comprehensive study of the San Francisco program for the National Institute of Justice. The one-day, throw-everything-at-them-and-see-what-sticks approach, he said, lacks the intense, targeted and longer-term therapy that is generally thought to be needed to change a person's behavior.

Indications are, however, that the classes are a relatively cheap and effective carrot to dangle in front of johns. California prostitution arrest records, Shively's team found, show that recidivism rates among San Francisco men dropped 30% in the decade following the launch of their john school. A newer program in San Diego posted similar results, he found.
I am skeptical of this statistic because a lot of things can change in 10 years. It depends on there being a credible control group (similar offenders assigned to a non-treatment social group). There is often a benefit in giving people attention of any kind, but the "scared straight" component is usually ineffective.

See my essays, Words Don't Work and Things You Don't Need: Addiction Treatment.

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