Monday, February 15, 2016

CA: Relocation of S.F. clinic for sex offenders put on hold

Updated 6:04 pm, Tuesday, February 9, 2016 
It was supposed to be opening day on Tuesday for a new counseling center for convicted sex offenders in an Upper Market Street neighborhood. But when the time came to open the front doors, they stayed shut and locked.

The opening of the clinic is now on indefinite hold, according to Supervisor Scott Wiener, who said he is introducing legislation that would require a public hearing and a vote by the Planning Commission to approve or reject the project.

“The neighbors are justifiably upset,” said Wiener, who represents the area. “It’s very jarring to people to find out this center is moving in without advance knowledge.”
All through the Duboce Triangle neighborhood, residents agreed they were plenty jarred.

“They’re all criminal people,” said the cashier at Golden Natural Foods a few doors south, while shelving a $5 box of raspberries. “They’re very scary. They’re not regular people. They need help. But not in this neighborhood. There are so many people who are so angry. We need good neighbors, not bad neighbors.”
The cashier gave her name only as Sally. She said she was too nervous about the situation to give her last name.

‘People need to feel secure’

“We’d prefer them to be somewhere else,” said Will Sockolov, the head coach at the $300-a-month Flagship Crossfit gym a few doors away. He was doing chin-ups on a bar while waiting for students of his noon exercise class to arrive.

“There’s got to be an industrial area. Someplace else, someplace less populated, less exposed to families. We already have a needle exchange place a block away. For our neighborhood to add a sex addict clinic, that’s not heading in the right direction. People need to feel secure.”
Sockolov’s gym used to be a Halloween costume store and a video rental store. Sure, he said, businesses come and go. But Sharper Future is not an ordinary business.

“We don’t need this kind of neighbor,” he said. “There’s got to be someplace else for them.”

For weeks, since word got out that Sharper Future was seeking to move from its existing center at 1540 Market St. to the larger space at Duboce and Church, neighbors have been chatting up each other about it. On Monday night, they held a public meeting to vent their frustrations to Wiener and representatives of the clinic and City Hall.

Neighbors complained that they had received no notice about the move and that a clinic for sex offenders is not an ordinary neighbor. Several hundred people showed up at the CPMC Davies Hospital auditorium a few blocks away to sound off.

Turning the other cheek

About the only neighbor who said he was OK with having a clinic for sex offenders down the street was Dave Walda, the senior administrator at St. Francis Lutheran Church. He said he was “a little concerned” but that it would “probably be OK.” St. Francis of Assisi, he said, would have supported the move and so would the entity that St. Francis reports to, who is known for turning the other cheek.

“The bottom line is that they’re human beings,” Walda said. “Everyone has problems and everyone needs help. Sometimes I think people get too overanxious. My feeling is that my arms are open. I hope the neighborhood doesn’t come tar and feather me when they find out how I feel.”

The center, Walda acknowledged, could give local parents “something extra to watch out for.” But, he added, “watching out for children is what parents have to do anyway.”

The corner of Church and Duboce, say neighborhood parents, is too close to schools and parks. Just about every corner in San Francisco, reply Sharper Future supporters, is close to schools and parks.
A block west is the Friends of St. Francis Preschool, where 38 children were sitting in a circle singing “Oh, Susanna” on Tuesday and director Sally Large said their safety was her prime concern.

A sex-offender center, she said, “causes concern about how we would be stewards for our families.”

“We know those people need to be served, and we encourage that,” she said. “But we work hard to protect our children. And there are issues of decreasing safety in Duboce Triangle.”
‘A NIMBY about something’

A block away from the proposed center, along Market and Duboce, folks were sprawled on the sidewalk or spreading wares of questionable lineage for sale. Not far from where tech buses line up every morning to whisk workers down the Peninsula lie a drop box to safely dispose of used needles and a 25-cent street bathroom that always seems to have a customer inside doing something besides going to the bathroom.

The Duboce Triangle Safeway is so big that several guards stand on duty, to ensure customers remember to pay for their selections. A half block away is the fortress-like U.S. Mint, a building full of even more guards and surrounded with barbed wire to keep itself safe from the neighbors, not the other way around.
Marc Haber, head of the Duboce Park Neighbors group, said it’s not fair to use the familiar term NIMBY — “not in my backyard” — to describe his neighbors’ reaction.

“Everyone is a NIMBY about something,” he said. “Some people would be against a pet store or a Chipotle moving in. I’m not afraid to have people find out that I’m against having sex offenders moving in.”
Counseling center’s goals

The counseling center offers “specialized treatment for individuals who have committed sexual offenses ... in the interest of future community safety,” the Sharper Future website says.

Most clients are “convicted sex offenders referred directly by a parole agent or a probation officer. After careful initial assessment, each qualified participant moves into a group-based ... curriculum, which addresses the core issues related to the offense. Participants are expected to acknowledge their sexual problems and admit having committed their offense,” the website says.

The “Sharper” stands for “Social Habilitation and Relapse Prevention — Expert Resources.” The center was founded in 1995 by San Francisco psychologists Mary-Perry Miller and Tom Tobin and operates 10 facilities throughout California. Representatives of Sharper Future did not return calls for comment on Tuesday.

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"When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea. He means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect."
~Adlia Stevenson U.S. Vice President (1893–1897) and Congressman (1879–1881)

On a Personal Note

Thanks for the opportunity to express my thoughts regarding the issue of citizens’ rights, particularly addressing certain sex offenders’ crimes that do not fit the devastating, inequitable and endless punishment given.

As you know, many young men and women lives across the nation are being destroyed by incarceration, life-time registry and restrictive laws that do more harm than good. For those individuals, there is no second chance.

Below is a personal letter to President Obama:
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“Dear President Obama,

I truly agree with your sentiments that individuals, such as ex-felons, should be able to receive a second chance at life. Since we all know that one can veer off that path of life and travel along rough, rocky terrain, sometimes running off and ending up in some ditch. We all have made our fill of mistakes and sometimes those held a costly consequence that changed life forever. So we lived through it, trying harder to make things right with family, friends and those around us, but what about those who aren’t able to make things right even if they tried…because they’re labeled as too dirty, a leper, a person who is rejected from society and home.

But what if they’re a seventeen year old and had sex with a fifteen year old, consensual at that? Or they’re a teen that had gotten so enraged after a breakup that he sent out naked pictures of his girlfriend on his cell phone or email? Or an individual urinates where someone just happens to see them?

All are wrong and a travesty but do they deserve the life of no second chance with a registry that ends all. They are labeled, no jobs, no where to live…they have been deemed a menace to society, a plague. These certain circumstances, and many other situations similar to these, I believe still deserve a second change.

Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

After my son’s early release and two years of prison, I thought I had handled that fact graciously knowing after serving his time he would be able to get that fresh start, that second chance. He was an exemplary inmate, GED, college courses and vocational classes. Little did I know that a second chance on the outside was the farthest from the truth? He now struggles and lives in a trailer park sharing a trailer with another and surrounded by others in the same rocking boat, one to float endlessly in shark infested waters. I see him little because of probation requirements (he couldn’t live with us because we were 800 feet near a school). My family is afraid of what would happen to them if he lived with them…vigilantism. My son has no other place to stay since others condemn him of his crime that is screamed from the highest rooftop. Sex offender, sex offender!

Not all sex offenders are pedophiles or predators but some are simply young kids that make one stupid and rash decision that eventually changes everything, and they have no idea what they’ve done until their life is never their own. Exactly, where is that second chance for those sex-offenders who are lumped together with pedophiles and predators? Now, it makes me sick to think of my son’s future and many like him that are on the registry and many with no second chance…ever. I am asking you as a mother and as another concerned citizen of the United States that these laws are looked at again and taken into serious consideration in what they are doing to the Constitution of the United States, not for sex offenders in general but the future rights of every citizen, before anymore are put into effect. They unjustly strip an offender of their rights and place them in a guillotine that can be easily set off by anyone and at anytime. Where is the second chance for ex-sex offenders in the present, pending and future laws?”
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What truly saddens me is the weakness and deterioration of what the sex offense issue is doing to our once, great nation. Across Europe, others are seeing the injustice and disregard of rights, but we ignore this problem and it makes me wonder where humanity is heading….

We have become a hysterical society in which our latest witch-hunt is a sex offender--no matter his/her crime.

Below is a email sent from a foreign advocate to a father of a sex offender:
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“The tragic story of your son's death is just so sad that it's difficult to explain how. It was very hard to read your letters. It seems almost unbelievable that this can take place in a democracy! From our point of view, there is no justice in this. Not in any way: not for you, your son, the former girl friend – or even the state.

It is an abusive legal system. It seems barbaric. And we are so very sorry that this takes place. That's why it's so important for us to try to neutralize the debate with this…, hopefully making some changes. ….. to show the every day life of the sex offenders, trying to show how they keep on being punished, even after served prison time…..But we will for sure tell the story of the injustice that your son has been exposed to.”
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I appreciate everyone's commitment and backing to protect everyone's civil rights, plainly as noted in the Constitution of the United States and is presupposed, giving ALL men are “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”