Seattle slaps $150 fee on prostitute patrons
The Seattle City Council approved a $150 fee today. The money would go to pay for counseling classes for prostitutes and their customers.
Seattle Times staff reporter
On top of fines and jail time, johns now face a $150 fee and counseling classes for patronizing a prostitute.
The Seattle City Council approved the fee today. The money will go to pay for counseling classes for prostitutes and their customers.
"What Seattle is trying to do is to really help the true victims of the crime, which are women who are driven by drug addiction or alcohol addiction or mental illness," said City Attorney Tom Carr, who recommended the legislation.
"The 'Pretty Woman' model you see on television just is definitely not the case from what I've seen in court."
Prostitution or patronizing a prostitute is a misdemeanor punishable by up to $1,000 and 90 days in jail.
Carr said his office sees about 100 cases a year of people patronizing prostitutes, a level that has remained constant over the past 10 years. He did not have figures immediately available on cases of people committing prostitution.
The new legislation is intended to update legislation passed in 1994, when the council required people convicted of prostitution to take a class on sexually transmitted diseases.
The class eventually morphed into a peer-counseling session run by a former prostitute and showed success at helping women get out of the sex trade, Carr said.
Funding for the classes dried up in recent years, so Carr proposed setting up a new fee to fund the classes.
He also proposed a class for prostitutes' customers, modeled on a program in San Francisco.
"You look at men who are patronizing and you bring in someone who has been a prostitute and humanize the whole person," Carr said.
The counseling program is expected to cost $17,000 a year for the Seattle Human Services Department to run, Carr said.
Councilmember Tim Burgess said this is part of the Safer Streets initiative he proposed last year.
"We are realizing more and more that the person involved in prostitution is in many cases a victim as well, and are often subjected to coercive violence, threats. It can be a pretty ugly existence," he said. "Our desire is to offer counseling and solutions that will move them out of that experience."
Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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