In 2007, Dallas County began a prostitution diversion plan in which people caught selling sex are often funneled into treatment programs rather than simply locked up. The idea -- a fairly progressive one -- is that prostitutes are most often victims who become trapped in a vicious circle rather than criminals who should be locked away.
Over the next four years, the program contacted 728 prostitutes, 201 of which were eligible and opted to enter residential treatment programs, according to the program's most recent annual report. Of those who completed the treatment, slightly under half weren't subsequently re-arrested for prostitution.
Most of Dallas County's commissioners consider that to be a success. Maurine Dickey was particularly vocal in her support for the program during today's Commissioners Court meeting; she was joined by her colleagues in a bipartisan, 4-0 vote in favor of continuing the county's participation in the program by funding its contribution through the district attorney's office.
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The missing fifth vote belongs to John Wiley Price. According to a recap from the Morning News, he questioned the program's cost effectiveness. Then, he asked whether the county's treatment program for johns is mandatory or voluntary. But Price didn't say "johns." He didn't say "men who pay for sex," either.
"You call them 'johns," I call them 'sponsors,'" he explained, according to the News.
Now, "sponsor," is something you do to NPR or the local Little League team. It's a gift, not always without self-interest but always with the hope that it helps the recipient succeed. To think that's ever the case in prostitution is at best paternalistic, at worst a dismissal of the idea that prostitutes can ever be victims, and regardless it's quite odd.
Maybe Price didn't mean anything by the term. Perhaps it's a product of some quirk of his diction. Whatever the case, he stayed mostly silent during the rest of the discussion and abstained from voting on the measure. We've got a call in for an explanation. We'll update this post when ... ah, forget it.