Friday, March 31, 2006

Some In City Council Can't Stop from Pandering

Sexually Based Offenders Debated in City Council

On Wednesday, Cleveland City Council held a hearing about the issue of sexual based offenders living in Cleveland. I think that the guy at the door unwittingly had it right when he asked, "Where are you going today?" I responded, "City Council," and he said, "So, are you for the predators or against them?" It seems that some of the Council members took this to heart and had to pander to the deepest fears in all of us. Ward 11 (Collinwood) Councilman Michael Polensek did his best impression of a Senate Supreme Court nomination hearing by giving a speech that just went on and on and on. What is the point of having a hearing with all these "experts" if you never ask any questions and keep throwing in tangents that have nothing to do with the issue?

Councilman Zach Reed and Pat Britt of Wards 3 (Mt. Pleasant) and Ward 6 (University Circle) area respectively did a good job of asking appropriate questions and listening to the testimony of the large number of panelists. Here are some of the things that we learned:

  • The 1,000 feet rule implemented by the state (No sexually based offender can live within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare center or childcare facility) is not based on any science and is entirely arbitrary. After all, a rapist of women does not care that they cannot live within a 1,000 feet of a childcare facility. A pedophile of young male relatives does not care that they cannot live next to a girl's school.
  • 80% of the sexually based offenders knew their victims (babysitter, relative, acquaintance, etc.) yet all the rules are based on stranger attacks.
  • Treatment for sex offenders does lower recidivism.
  • Stable housing is the greatest need for those returning from incarceration. Stable housing and proper supervision is the best prevention of recidivism.
  • Homeless Shelters are not a very good place for sexually based offenders, but two of the three largest concentrations of sexually based offenders in Cleveland are shelters.
  • There is a real lack of money from the state to serve this population and to protect the citizens. Polensek characterized this as an unfunded mandate.
  • There are some 600 people living too close to a childcare facility in Cuyahoga County.
  • They have changed the way that they measure the 1,000 feet. It is now property line to property line.
  • There is no criminal penalty for violating the 1,000 feet. It is a civil procedure that a neighbor or law enforcement can take to force the individual to move.
I have never understood why it seems like elected officials have these hearing, but seem to ignore the so-called "experts" who testify. If the 1,000 rule was in place to appeal to the law and order voters, but has no basis in fact, then why doesn't City Council speak up? These rules harm our community, but making it seem that something is being done, but in reality the rules make our community less safe. How about lawsuits against the state? These rules force sexually based offenders to move and constantly looking over their shoulders. They spend time unsupervised and untreated in the shelters and angry, and we are less safe.

There is a special place for Ward 21 (West Park) Councilman Michael Dolan who pandered to the cameras and voters. After coming in late and missing most of the testimony, he stepped up on his way to another meeting to say that he wished these guys could be shipped to the desert while under the watchful eye of the state. I could be wrong, but I believe that we tried this in "Escape from New York," and Snake Plissken was able to escape. Don't go out and rent it just believe me, he was very angry when he finally got off the island. Dolan also wanted the legal department to send letters to all 600 living too close to a childcare facility. Basically, giving the men's shelter warning to expect another 500 people. WHERE WILL THESE GUYS GO, MR. DOLAN???? Would you rather have them sleeping on the streets? The "Councilman" swept in, dropped a few soundbytes that were totally unreasonable, and left. A disgraceful show that did not forward the discussion at all.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

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