Denver's Johns Deterred by Airtime

The city of Denver is zooming in on the world's oldest profession, airing a new program on the city's cable access channel that shows mugshots of men convicted of soliciting prostitutes.

Opponents of the broadcast say it amounts to unfair punishment of the men convicted of paying for sex, but city officials say they are merely looking for an effective way to respond to complaints from residents who live on a street near in the inner city that is affected by prostitution.

Officials say Johns TV works because the publicity puts a damper on the incentive.

"These men don't want to lose their families, these men don't want to lose their homes. I think that's a deterrent," said city attorney Wally Wortham.

The commercials warn prospective Johns with daunting messages such as, "Are you thinking of getting involved in prostitution? You're gonna be on television."

Residents say the program is working.

Prior to the show's start, resident Pamela Corvelli had to chase prostitutes and their customers with a plastic baseball bat to get them to stop performing sexual acts on her lawn and in the alley behind her house. She had even been propositioned herself.

"It's known all over the country as the red light district and I guess so because this is a real popular corner here in the evening," Corvelli said.

But since the start of Johns TV a week ago, Corvelli has already noticed a change in her neighborhood.

"I have seen a decrease, I have, and when you talk to the girls, they say that business is slow," she said.

Wortham agreed that the program is working.

"There's no doubt that people are watching it," he said.

But not everyone thinks the program is fair.

"I do not see this as the answer at all," said Sue Armstrong, head of the American Civil Liberties Union's Denver office.

Armstrong said posting the names and pictures of johns after they have been convicted is like double jeopardy, a duplication of the punishment.

"We've added on a penalty and that penalty is now we're going to advertise your name to the public," she said, adding that the ones who really end up paying are the family members of the humiliated men.

The city hopes Johns TV will have a long run, but Corvelli said she's keeping the plastic baseball bat behind her front door in case it doesn't.