Reaching out to the prostitutes of Nashville

NPR profiles Magdalene House, a private residential rehab center for women who’ve been arrested for prostitution and drug addiction.

Nashville arrested more than 1,100 people for prostitution and solicitation last year. Maybe someday Messina will decide she wants to go straight and clean up. And if she does, there’s a program in Nashville that can help. It’s called Magdalene.

It was founded in 1997 by Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest who grew up in Nashville and who had been abused as a child. Magdalene is a two-year private residential rehab center for women with criminal histories of prostitution and drug addiction.

Over the years, Magdalene has graduated more than 150 women and has raised about $12 million in private funds.

Magdalene offers an intensified program of housing, counseling and training, based on a 12-step model. Women stay free for the two years they’re there. It is becoming a national model for others trying to help women trapped by prostitution.

Magdalene also helps run “john schools….”

…aimed at educating male clients who are arrested for hiring prostitutes about various aspects of prostitution. Only first-time offenders may enroll.

“A john could be anyone,” says Kenneth Baker, a counselor who volunteers to run the john school. “You know one of them.” Each john pays about $300, and then gets his record expunged if it’s a first-time offense. All proceeds go to Magdalene, and last year the program contributed $100,000.

Magdalene sends former prostitutes to talk to the program to confront the men who paid for sex.

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