(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — At his third annual Human Trafficking Summit this morning, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced his office’s creation of a guide for courts and communities seeking to establish “john schools” and grants to help fund 10 such programs throughout the state.
“To the sex buyers that we’re going to bust in 2022, you’re going back to school, because you’ve got some learning to do!” Yost told the 1,100-plus attendees of the virtual event. “This education shows sex buyers the ugly truth about the market they encourage and support.”
Since taking office in January 2019, the attorney general has made the fight against human trafficking a top priority of his administration, with a particular focus on reducing the demand side of the problem.
The newly announced guide and grants are rooted in House Bill 431, a state law that Yost and his Human Trafficking Initiative (HTI) team pushed the General Assembly to pass. The law, which took effect last spring, created legal sanctions aimed specifically at sex buyers, including stiffer fines and a requirement that offenders attend john school, more formally known as sex buyer education classes.
The educational mandate means that Ohio needs more john schools. To that end, Yost told summit participants that the Attorney General’s Office will provide $10,000 each to 10 qualifying communities that want to create a sex-buyer education program.
The summit, which unites those working to eradicate human trafficking in a statewide celebration of their successes and an examination of the challenges that remain, is presented by Yost’s HTI team, which works to build awareness of the problem, empower Ohioans to take action in their communities, help survivors, and ensure that traffickers and johns are brought to justice.
“If traffickers and their customers thought COVID-19 would ease the pressure we’re putting on them, they were wrong,” Yost said. “And the pressure won’t ease this year, either. We’re going to bring the pain, and we’re going to bring the justice.”
Following Yost’s address, summit participants heard from keynote speaker Cyntoia Brown-Long, a nationally recognized advocate for criminal justice reform and victims of human trafficking.
Summit workshops conducted throughout the day encompassed educational sessions, success stories and best practices. Presenters included representatives from government, health care, human trafficking coalitions and organizations, and higher education, including the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking, the Salvation Army of Ohio, AEquitas, Sanctuary Night, Freedom a la Cart, Bowling Green State University, the University of Dayton, and The Ohio State University.
A video recording of AG Yost’s remarks is available through Steve Irwin, the office’s press secretary: Steve.Irwin@OhioAGO.gov.