Friday, March 11, 2011

Letter in favor of treatment exclusion to Jefferson Co. anti-clustering law

This was sent specifically to State Rep. Todd because she has spoken publicly about the need to reform sex offender laws in Alabama. Adding an exclusion to B'Ham's sex offender laws to allow Shiloni Transformation Ministries to resume housing for former offenders would be a nice start.

I'd like to ask other readers to contact State Rep. Todd- maybe she can propose a bill to allow halfway house services in Birmingham to resume.

Dear State Representative Patricia Todd,

I am writing you today to express my concerns over the anti-clustering laws passed specifically in Jefferson County during the 2010 Legislative Session (a bill sponsored by State Senator Priscilla Dunn), and to suggest an exclusion to the bill on behalf of halfway houses, specifically the Shiloni Ministries of Birmingham. I have written you specifically because you have spoken out in the past, calling for reform and review of Alabama's policies of managing those convicted of sexual offenses.

This bill was written without regard to the benefits of Shiloni Ministries and similar programs that run reintegration services for those convicted of sex crimes (in fact, it has been said the bill was written specifically to target Shiloni Ministries). Instability on post-release life,
particularly housing and employment deficiencies, is a primary factor in criminal recidivism, and in crime rates in general.

On the contrary, halfway houses and reintegration programs, much like the one offered by Shiloni Ministries, are effective measures to reduce the already low rates of recidivism among those convicted of sexual offenses. A study by the
Colorado Department of Public Safety found "Shared Living Arrangements" to be a very effective for of those deemed "high-risk" sex offenders, with less overall violations and higher reporting of violations (in other words, the registrants police themselves). Places like Shiloni Ministries offer a positive support network that increases the likelihood of a successful post-release reintegration, especially during those critical first months of release, when the likelihood of recidivism is highest.

Unfortunately, Alabama has a history of supporting the "tough" on crime but not "smart" on crime policies promoted by the Troy King/ Bob Riley regime. There is ample research that many of these pos-conviction policies are more placebo than panacea. This is one area we can at least change.

Ohio has made exceptions to the residency law rule [Ohio Revised Code 2950.01(u)] that excludes treatment facilities as "residences" under the letter of the law. I am proposing a similar rule to allow Shiloni Ministries to continue its efforts to provide stable housing and social support to former offenders. (I have attached a rough draft of a similar proposal I wrote on behalf of another halfway house in California).

I am not a representative of Shiloni Transformation Ministries. I am, however, a nationally known advocate for the rights and advancement of former offenders. I am also a former offender, convicted in Alabama. I experienced the frustration of trying to find housing while incarcerated and without the help of loved ones. I had written over 60 places as far away as Oregon to no avail. I was five days away from release and facing a "Failure To Register" charge when a church ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio accepted me. I have been free since April 1, 2003. I beat the odds but it wasn't easy-- I've been homeless, denied housing and employment, harassed by self-appointed vigilantes, and forced out of a pre-approved residence. I believe in these programs because without them, the likelihood of a released prisoner being a productive citizen are significantly diminished.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

2011 Legislative session

 Its a quiet year in legislature... so far.

Below is a list of 2011 Legislative Bills as of today, March 10, 2011:

HB 23: Allows expungement of records under certain circumstances
Our Stance: Support, though more expungement opportunities for those on the public registry who are arrested but acquitted or have charges dismissed.

HB 51: Increases penalty for third indecent exposure from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class C felony
Our Stance: I'm hesitant to agree with this one because Indecent Exposure is a broad definition. Also, to make a non-contact offense the same penalty as a contact offense seems asinine.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Controversial signs on front lawn target registered person

More Alabama stupidity. Maybe I'm biased, but it seems the stupidity seems to be more concentrated in North Alabama. For once, WAFF 48 didn't put much on a negative slant on the story or name the victim of this vigilante scumbag. By the way, this clown is harassing the registrant, so he should be arrested for harassment. "Free speech" does not include harassing communications. Also, I'd like to point out that "Second Degree Rape" includes someone who had sex with a willing partner if she is between ages 12-15; I wouldn't be surprised if this was the case.

Controversial signs on front lawn target sex offenders

Posted: Mar 04, 2011 10:04 PM EST Updated: Mar 04, 2011 11:08 PM EST 
 By: Margo Gray

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - How far does free speech really go? Signs out in front of a Huntsville mans home is creating quite the commotion.

The signs have the power to create a traffic jam, plenty of conversation and even stir up emotion. The homemade signs on Michael Gill's front lawn in the middle of Five Points are sending a message, aimed at a neighbor. "If I didn't do anything, no one would know that rapist is living on my block across the street."

A couple days ago, Gill received a notice in the mail from Huntsville Police. A registered sex offender who was convicted of 2nd degree rape of a 15 year-old moved in a few doors down, and by law, anyone within 1000 feet is required to know. "When I get that notice, what am I supposed to do," said Gill. So he installed 24 hour camera surveillance at his home. "I agree with the man, I don't think he should be here and there is a whole lot of kids in the neighborhood," said resident Jody Price.

Not all of Gill's neighbors agree with his tactics. Many who would not go on camera said Gill is creating more of a nuisance than anything else. Some of Gill's neighbors have even reported him to police and the city over this. He's violated the noise ordinance and was forced to reduce the size of his signs. "I have to stay within the city ordinances, but that is infringing on my speech," Gill said. His neighbor, though, also has the right to live there.

WAFF spoke the man. He was convicted back in 1999 and served a year for the crime. He said he served his time, doesn't bother anyone, wants to be left alone.