St. Paul, MN

Tactics Used

Reverse stings
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Web stings
License suspension

St. Paul has experienced a wide range of problems associated with its robust local commercial sex market, including child sex trafficking, sex sellers specifically targeted for assault and murder, and infants endangered during commercial sex exchanges.  The city is one of the pioneers of the john school model used to combat demand for commercial sex.  It started the second john school program in 1988 (preceded only by the John Group in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which began in 1981).  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 one founded by Vednita Carter (Breaking Free, launched in 2000 and operating through the present).

“Breaking Free” John School:  Offenders’ Prostitution Program

The Breaking Free program began accepting men arrested in Rochester and Olmsted County, Minnesota, in 2011, and accepts 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 part of sentences given to Olmsted County offenders.  The one-day class covers varied topics:

  • 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 are asked to fill out forms to gather statistical information on men who hire prostitutes and to determine whether the class affected their thinking about prostitution. At the end of the day, men are given a letter certifying they took the class, which is offered to first-time offenders as part of a sentence in which they avoid jail time.

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 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

State Minnesota
Type City
Population 277251
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