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Should the OC District Attorney publicize names of convicted 'johns'?

A female police officer poses as a prostitute on Holt Boulevard in Pomona, CA.
A female police officer poses as a prostitute on Holt Boulevard in Pomona, CA.
David McNew/Getty Images

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In an attempt to stem prostitution, Orange County is turning to publicizing the names of those who are convicted of buying sex. Orange County District Attorney's office said in a news release that putting a spotlight on convicted "johns" will help, "Send a message to human traffickers and sex purchasers that they can no longer perpetuate this problem without suffering severe consequences."

"This is not just limited to this one aspect, human trafficking is all kinds of slavery, anything from trafficking for labor, trafficking for sexual favors in a slave type manor," said Tony Rackauckas, Orange County District Attorney. "We're talking about women, boys and little girls who work involuntarily as slaves. We should do whatever we can to reduce and stop that process."

O.C. is the latest to a list of cities across the country that feel that a little public humiliation goes a long way in putting an end to prostitution, which O.C. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has characterized as an increasing problem.

"I certainly think it will deter somebody whose from doing it again," said Rackauckas. "I would imagine that if a person's name goes up on the internet or on the air for purchasing sex, he'll probably never do it again."

Calling out so-called johns seems like it would be a good idea, but critics argue that publicizing the names can cause unnecessary grief for the families of those exposed. Laurie Shanks, Clinical Professor of Law at the Albany Law School in New York, says that only a john's loved ones should be notified. 

"I think that the outcome will be that people will lose their jobs, marriages will be destroyed, spouses and children will be humiliated," said Shanks. "You're really punishing the family members, you're really imposing a penalty that wasn't contemplated. What the prosecutor is saying in this case is, 'Well I'd like to add some penalties, and what I'd like to add is humiliation, what I'd like to add is the public thinking badly of this person, what I'd like to do is let his wife know,' and that's just not appropriate in my mind."

Shanks also says focusing on the johns in this case equalizes prostitution, not differentiating between child prostitutes working as slaves and adults working as prostitutes because of an economic reason.

"Those are two very very different crimes. To talk about some one purchasing say a five- or six-year-old, that's a very serious felony, that is a very different serious consideration," said Shanks. "The DA's press release makes it clear that some of the people that he's talking about have nothing to do with child slavery. This has nothing to do with protecting children or protecting people in a slave relationship, this is about shaming, this is like putting someone in the stocks or making them wear a scarlet letter."

Matt Lee contributed to this article.

Tell us what you think in the comments:
Does "john-shaming" work as a tactic in the battle against prostitution? What are the benefits? What are the drawbacks? What are some possible negative consequences of this effort?

Tony Rackauckas, Orange County District Attorney

Laurie Shanks, Clinical Professor of Law at the Albany Law School in New York