In a move designed to scare potential Johns straight, the Chicago police have started posting to the web the photos and personal information of any
man caught soliciting prostitution. The project started this month, and already boasts dozens of 'Stars.' It remains to be seen if the strategy
will pay off in the form of a reduction in arrests.
Anyone who's ever wondered just who the men are who cruise this city's seedier strips looking for sex can now satisfy their curiosity.
Starting last month, the Chicago Police Department has been posting the names of "johns" arrested for engaging or soliciting prostitutes; along with
their photo, address, age and place of arrest. A recent sample included men from low-income Chicago neighborhoods and relatively well-to-do suburbs,
of all ages and ethnicities.
It's part of a tactic more and more cities are using, cracking down on prostitution by focusing on demand, often using tactics of humiliation -- like
Chicago's website or billboards in Oakland, Calif. -- to try and convince potential customers to stay home.
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I was stunned when I heard about this. I lived in Chicago for several years, so of course my curiosity got the best of me, and I wanted to see if
anyone I knew had found their way to infamy by this route. It seems to me to be a blatant violation of privacy. This reminds me of when they used to
put petty criminals in stocks in the town square so that their peers could laugh and throw rotten produce at the offenders. It's neither
rehabilitation nor is it exactly punishment. It's more akin to terrorism actually, or, detterence if you prefer.
I think this raises a very sticky legal question. What is the justification for posting the photos? To embarass, obviously. Does this qualify as
cruel and unusual punishment? This will almost certainly lead to people losing their jobs, which is perhaps punishment above and beyond that
necessitated by the relative seriousness of the crime. Will they start doing this with other crimes as well?
I never understood why prostitution was illegal in the first place. It's a victimless crime in most instances, and a legal framework would grant both
workers and customers a vastly improved margin of safety and comfort. With VD testing, secure locations, registered workers, and 'panic buttons', all
the worst elements of prostitution are eliminated. I think this is a case of opening a can of worms to avoid the obvious solution. Check the
supporting link for the actual website, to view the wall of infamy. Who knows, you might even find someone you know!
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