One day you got a call from your 87-year-old Grandma, a grandma who is the least political person you know, who is a Jehovah’s Witness, and is just about—no make that, THE nicest and sweetest person that you know who doesn’t get too upset about anything and she said to you that she was worried because they had opened up a group home to house paroled sex offenders in her neighborhood?
You’d get up off you butt and find out what the hell is going on. Well, at least that’s what I did. I figure that if I can involve myself in other causes and issues, I sure can get involved when an issue pops up in the neighborhood that I grew up in and still have family living in and that’s just what I did.
Turns out that it’s true, they did open one of these such group homes in my grandma’s neighborhood, unbeknownst to the rest of the block, which is full of mostly seniors and families raising children.
It also turns out that up until a week ago, there were six paroled sex offenders living in this one house, which I might add is in a cul-de-sac where the neighborhood kids play. When the Neighborhood Watch started making inquiries, the Sheriff’s Department moved two of them and so there are four.
And for the record, this isn’t illegal. The neighborhood in question is more than 2000 feet away from a school or park.
In California, “Jessica’s law” prohibits registered sex offenders from residing within 2000 feet of a school or park.” It requires parolees to wear a GPS tracking device as well. In addition, since January 1, 1999 multiple paroled registered sex offenders cannot live in the same dwelling unless they are related to each other.
Now I have mixed feelings on the issue of where to house paroled sex offenders. I do believe in their right to come out of prison and to start a new life.
However, I take serious issue with our parole system. When my Grandma’s neighborhood watch contacted the Compton Sheriff’s Department to ask why they hadn’t been notified of the group home, they were told that they notify the public by updating the Megan’s Law website and their database which can be accessed the public library.
Let me ask you, how many senior’s do you know that are online? That still drive? My point exactly.
And why should we as residents have to remember to check a website that tells you that not even all of the paroled sex offenders are listed on it anyway?
When they want to shoot a movie in our neighborhoods, we get notified. When they want to repaint the numbers on the curb in front of the house we get notified? Well, residents should also get notified if there’s about a group home of paroled sex offenders opening up on their block as well, if for no other reason that to make sure to keep their children away from near said house.
The other problem I have is with the law itself. There are very few places in Los Angeles County for paroled sex offenders to live that are 2000 feet from a park or a school. My Grandma’s neighborhood happens to be just one of those neighborhoods in the unincorporated area of Los Angeles County. For those from Los Angeles, it’s what is often referred to as the “Twilight Zone.” Between Alondra and Redondo Beach Boulevards and Main and San Pedro Streets.
We, the constituents fight for these laws, but I don’t think that we think it all the way through. At some point, they are going to be released after they serve their time. When they are paroled, by law they, are returned to the county that they are from. There’s no escaping that.
I am also keenly aware of the behind the scenes lobbying that the owners of these homes do with our state lawmakers. I’ve witnessed it myself. Also, keep in mind that owners of these homes do have to apply for a license, so they are working through the political system. All I’m going to say is that these homes are becoming a booming business in the county of Los Angeles.
So you see the system is flawed from all angles.
And while I hate to throw out the problems without a solution, unfortunately on this one, I don’t even have a suggestion, other than I feel that residents in the immediate surrounding area should be notified about these types of homes opening up. That I am clear about.
Like I said, I have mixed feelings on the issue. I don’t have a soft spot for child molesters, pedophiles, and rapists. No one wants R. “Pissy” Kelly to get the book thrown at him during his trial next month more than I do, lol.
But I do believe in one’s right to pay their debt to society and after doing so, rejoin society as productive members, even R. Pissy.
However, we cannot go around allowing these homes to open up in our neighborhoods, which let’s be honest, tend to be Black and brown neighborhoods, without giving the residents adequate and appropriate notice (i.e. a letter in the mail) and say in matter.
As for the protest, I was very inspired to see so much of the neighborhood come out in the 90-degree weather to protest. Black, brown, young, and old, walking side by side to keep their neighborhood safe for everyone.
I like what the block watch president Sharon Cruse said during her rally speech. She stressed the we wanted to keep our neighborhood safe, and stressed the word neighbor, cause in her words “this wasn’t the hood.” Right on!
I think I made my Grandma proud this past weekend, at least I hope so.
Jasmyne Cannick is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the worlds of pop culture, race, class, sexuality, and politics as it relates to the African-American community. A regular contributor to NPR’s ‘News and Notes,’ she was chosen as one Essence Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World. She can be reached at www.jasmynecannick.com or www.myspace.com/jasmynecannick.