St. Paul, MN

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Saint Paul, the state capital of Minnesota, is a city of about 307,000 residents that forms the “Twin Cities” with neighboring Minneapolis.  St. Paul and its surrounding areas (including the other cities and unincorporated areas of Ramsey County and Hennepin County) has experienced a wide range of problems associated with its robust local commercial sex market, including child sex trafficking, sexually exploited and trafficked persons specifically targeted for assault and murder, and infants endangered during commercial sex exchanges.  Male sex buyers have also been murdered and robbed during prostitution transactions.

Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies and community groups as a strategy for prevention and response. The city is one of the pioneers of the john school model used to combat demand for commercial sex. In 1988 is started the second john school program in the United States (preceded only by the John Group in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which began in 1981).  At times, the city has had two john school programs running concurrently, one led by Steve Sawyer (Sawyer Solutions, LLC, a program what began in different form in 1988 and was operated through the Project Pathfinder program until about 2012, and then “Sawyer Solutions” afterward) and one founded by Vednita Carter (Breaking Free’s John School, launched in 1999 and operating through 2018, and then was revised and renamed to Men Breaking Free, and has operated from 2018 to the present).

“Breaking Free” John School:  Offenders’ Prostitution Program

The Breaking Free  john school program was launched in 1999 and was modeled after the San Francisco First Offender Prostitution Program (FOPP), which began in 1995.  It served the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, primarily.  The Breaking Free program began accepting men arrested in Rochester and Olmsted County, Minnesota, in 2011, and also continued to accept referrals from Minneapolis and St. Paul as well as other communities throughout Minnesota.  Designed to address sex buying issues from multiple angles, the Offenders’ Prostitution Program, in St. Paul is being used as a condition of court sentences given to Olmsted County offenders.  The one-day class covered a variety of topics, such as:

  • The dangers involved in hiring a prostitute, such as getting beaten and robbed, contracting a venereal disease, or hiring a minor who looks like an adult, an offense that leads to more serious penalties.
  • An overview of Minnesota law banning the solicitation of prostitutes.
  • Extended discussion of sexually transmitted diseases, including how they spread, what the symptoms are, and what can happen if they are not treated.AIDS tests are commonly offered, with results given to men at the end of the day.
  • Presentations by women formerly involved in prostitution, and videos showing the impact of prostitution.
  • A presentation by a former john and discussion of sexual addiction.
  • Discussion of how prostitution can damage communities.

Offenders were asked to fill out forms to gather statistical information on men who hire prostituted persons and to determine whether the class affected their thinking about prostitution. At the end of the day, men were given a letter certifying they took the class, which was offered to first-time offenders as part of a sentence in which they avoid jail time by successfully completing the program.

Men Breaking Free

After nearly 20 year of experience, Breaking Free determined that their lecture format classes were not addressing the personal adjustments required to affect real change. In early 2018 Breaking Free entered into a partnership with Building Peaceful Community  to review and update its John School approach. Through this effort, a transformation was made to the program, whose name was changed from “John School” to “Men Breaking Free.” This was intended to reflect a fundamental shift in the approach taken with participating men. The new program is built on the premise that the men in the class – or anyone else  – should be “defined by the worst decisions and moments in our lives.”

Sawyer Solutions Treatment Program for Sex Buyers

Sawyer Solutions offers a unique and individualized intervention program for men who buy sex. The program is designed to help men choose more productive coping styles, and to identify behavioral issues that can be addressed through additional therapy and referrals.  The program begins with an introduction and initial assessment session, and consists of four to six weekly group sessions. The sessions are led by an experienced group therapist and include lectures, reading and writing assignments, multimedia teaching tools, and group discussion.  The program offers:

  • Strategies for changing behavior
  • Examination of emotional and relational contributing factors and consequences
  • Self-assessment tools
  • Accurate information about the damage that prostitution causes to women and society

Key Partners

  • St. Paul Police Department
  • Minneapolis Police Department
  • Ramsey County District Attorney
  • Olmsted County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Midtown Community Justice
  • Breaking Free
  • Action Network to End Sexual Exploitation in Minnesota (ANESEM)
  • Sawyer Solutions, LLC

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey and Interviews (2012)

John School:

Street-Level Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Stings:

Identity Disclosure:

Auto Seizure:

Neighborhood Action:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Minnesota
Type City
Population 307193
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