Nashville, TN

Tactics Used

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

Prostitution has been identified by numerous constituencies as a substantial problem in Nashville.  The history of prostitution in the city is described in a Smithsonian Magazine article from July 2013, focusing on the explosion of prostitution during Union Army stationing in the early 1860s. By 1864, the Army established the first system of legalized prostitution in the United States in order to control disease among soldiers. The system involved prostitute registration, health inspection, etc., similar to that still used in rural Nevada counties. No mention is made of attempting to address the role of the buyers.  The legalized prostitution system was abandoned soon after the end of the Civil War.

In current times, the city is known by federal and state investigators to be on domestic sex trafficking circuits.  For example, federal prosecutors investigated a human trafficking and prostitution ring that had ties to several states, and that the network operated in cities including Knoxville, Morristown, Johnson City, and Louisville, Kentucky. Contemporary local problems associated with commercial sex have been cases of HIV-positive women continuing to engage in prostitution, and women selling sex being specifically targeted for homicide.

Nashville has been a leader in efforts to combat demand for commercial sex.  The first reverse sting operation known to have been conducted in the United States occurred in Nashville in 1964. More recent examples include a large scale web-based reverse sting that resulted in 41 people arrested during a three-day operation designed to combat human trafficking in Nashville. The operation, dubbed “Operation Someone Like Me,” was led by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation with help from other law enforcement agencies. Over three days, undercover agents posted ads on Backpage.com. A total of 485 men responded to those ads, some of which undercover agents posed as a juvenile girl. Of the 41 arrested, 34 were men who authorities said were responding to ads in an effort to buy sex from a minor. Eighteen of those paid to have sex with an underage girl.

John School

The city was also among the first cities to pursue the “john school” model of educating men arrested in reverse stings, and through 2017 the Nashville program, operated by Behavioral Treatment Providers (BTP), remained one of the most robust john schools in the Nation.  In 2010, for example, over 400 men participated in the program, more than any program in the U.S. except perhaps Brooklyn, NY.  This flow could be attributed to the Nashville Police Department remaining committed to conducting frequent reverse stings.  It was also helped by the level of local public support and political good will the program fostered, due to its “restorative justice” component.  All of the revenue generated by the BTP john school program $300 fee was given to the Magdalene program for survivors of commercial sex.  In 2010 alone, the 400 participants in the Nashville john school program generated over $100,000 for the Magdalene program (the fee was only $250 in 2010). The BTP john school program was a group therapeutic model, and in 2018 the person who ran the sessions passed away.

In 2019, it appears that the john school program available locally is run by SA Nashville. The John’s School provides education for men who tried to buy prostitution services and were caught by police.  Contact Rob W. or email h-and-i@sanashville.org.   Location: Jackson Park Church of Christ, 4103 Gallatin Pike, Nashville, TN 37216

Shaming

The city began using shaming tactics in 2005.  The police department website posts the identities of arrested sex buyers, with this explanation/disclaimer:

“The following individuals were arrested and charged for either patronizing or soliciting for prostitution. This is not a comprehensive list of all individuals arrested by the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department for patronizing or soliciting for prostitution. The names, identities, and citations appear here as they were provided to police officers in the field at the time of arrests.  All photos and information will be removed after thirty (30) days. These individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”

 

Key Partners

  • Nashville Police Department
  • Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
  • Behavioral Treatment Providers (John School, ending 2018)
  • SA Nashville (John School)

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey and Interviews

John School:

Street-Level Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Stings:

Shaming:

Neighborhood Action:

Community Service:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Tennessee
Type City
Population 590807
Location
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