Hookers' clients given a lesson

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The wealthy mid-Western lawyer was walking back to his San Francisco hotel through an area busy with prostitutes. A young Hispanic woman approached him, he said, and they negotiated a price.

"She was very attractive and didn't look like a prostitute at all, which should have told me something," he said.

Moments later he was under arrest, the latest catch of the city's vice squad. But the middle-aged man found himself enrolled in San Francisco's newest programme aimed at curbing its bustling sex trade.

Weary of arresting prostitutes, the police have decided to educate their customers. With other "Johns" arrested for soliciting, he avoided charges by opting for a day-long course at a cost of $500 (pounds 350) on prostitution. Classes have their ears bent by prosecutors, former prostitutes and sex-addiction counsellors. The six hours of lectures range from the risks of jail to the details of venereal diseases - with slides - and the real lives of the women who serve the men's sexual fantasies.

Listeners are invited to explore what drove them to pay for sex. None of about 500 first-time offenders who have enrolled so far have been arrested again, said Lieutenant Joe Dutto, head of the city's vice section. "These individuals come up afterwards and thank us for arresting them and enlightening them," he said.

He organised the courses with a former prostitute, Norma Hoteling, who reformed her life, took a degree, and became an expert on the sex trade. "I tell them about pimping and women who are recruited into prostitution," she said.

The attorney said the course "helped me focus and helped me grow". It did not change his life. He confessed: "I've fallen off the wagon a few times since."

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