Sunday, May 27, 2012

Simple Humanity

Hi Friends;
  Scottie's interest has encouraged me to be more aware of the sex offender laws in various states.  Today, being my first day off in two weeks, I found myself a bit bored.  Faced with the prospects of either cleaning the house or surfing the internet, well - I guess you can imagine my choice.  Anyway, I find it interesting when laws go into effect with one intention, or presumed intention, and end up having the opposite effect.  I've highlighted that particular portion of the article, but the rest is quite interesting, if depressing.
  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and those in the 'States', a great holiday.
For months, I’ve been corresponding with a lady named Virginia Hernandez, whose twenty-three year old son Elio is on Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry. He was accused of accosting a minor for immoral purposes, and pled guilty on the advice of his court-appointed counsel. His mom believes he is innocent, and was pressured into a plea. She says his attorney told him that he was poor, uneducated, and black, and a jury would never believe him.

I have no idea whether this is true, though I know such things do go on in our court system. I also don’t know whether he was guilty, though according to the documents I examined. nobody alleged he actually committed a physical act.
What I do know is that creating a decent and normal life for himself has been made well-nigh impossible by being on the list.
There are few enough jobs as it is in the Detroit area, and being on the sex offender list doesn’t make getting one any easier.
This summer, Elio’s frustrated mom moved the whole family from Macomb County to the Grand Rapids area, where things started to look up. Elio and his brothers did find jobs. They were living in a hotel, but working towards permanent housing.
But then, they hit a Catch-22. Those on the sex offender list are required to register when they move. Elio apparently tried to do that, but was told he could not register until he had a permanent address. That meant he had to return to Macomb County to meet with his probation officer. But when he did, he was arrested for failure to register in Kent County, His mom had to take a bus to Mount Clemens last week to bail him out. They have another court appearance this week. Helen Chapman, a family friend, told me:

“Here is a young man who was trying to do the right thing. And what did he get for it? It seems as if the system was never meant to give people freedom, but to force them to fail.”

According to the latest figures I could find, there are more than forty-seven thousand Michiganders on the sex offender list. Recently, J.J. Prescott from the University of Michigan law school, and Jonah Rockoff from Columbia published a massive national study on whether sex offender registration laws affect behavior.
Their results were stunning. The data indicates that when states keep these lists for the police, but don’t notify the public, they do seem to have a deterrent effect. But not when they include public notification requirements -- as they do in Michigan. The researchers found that making the identities of sex offenders public may actually weaken public safety by making them more likely to commit new crimes. Treating them as automatic pariahs almost seems to guarantee more bad behavior.

If we are determined to treat people as criminals, they are apt to fulfill our expectations, which is something you learn in elementary psychology classes. Now, I am no psychologist.
But it seems clear to me from this study, and Elio’s story, that Michigan’s sex offender registry may not be doing us much good, and is doing some people a whole lot of harm.

Giving Love

Hello Friends;

   As some of you know, I've come to really enjoy working with the local dog and cat rescue organization.  It is an incredibly minor role, offering my two hands and a willingness to help as my only skills.  The pro's tell me what they need, and I do my best to do that for them.  They are my hero's because they take on the immense responsibility and chore of teaching and loving these stray dogs and cats, then loving them enough to find a wonderful forever home and - incredible upon incredible - give them to someone else to love.  I've seen this, and the rending of the heart is matched only by the absolute joy of achieving this one great goal for that loved one.  Truly, it is something I just don't believe my heart could handle.
  We just weren't so lucky this last adoption day.  We brought out the dogs for viewing, and they all enjoyed the opportunity to see their friends and meet new people.  And lots of new people, in fact, there were to give pats and scratches behind the ears, a bit of love to each once unloved dog who wants only to love.  But, my most outstanding memories are of three people.  An elderly lady, and two boys.
  There were some wonderful people, please understand.  Many wonderful people, who came to learn about the organization and maybe even think on adopting a dog of their own.  Along came one elderly lady, there to do her weekly shopping.  She coo'd over each of the dogs, crying a small bit as she walked away because she knew she couldn't afford, quite literally, another mouth to feed.  She asked if we would be doing this again, and where, and how she could help.  Well, I told her how I helped, how I would come to hold a leash so that a dog could be there for people to see - we have to have a holder for each animal, one to one.  She was sad because she didn't own a car, she had walked to the store we held the event.  I told her that if she was able to help, I would do the driving - and got a hug of my own.
  Then there were the two boys.  You see, the area I live has a share of those whose only concern for money is in the counting, and then there are those who are like that elderly lady who can barely feed themselves.  Two boys came along, having been sent to the store by their mother.  They were about nine and eleven, maybe older.  But, as all boys do, they petted each dog - a bit leery of the larger dogs, giggling over the smaller ones, but giving love to each.  After a bit, they walked on towards home.... then, heads together stopping a few dozen feet beyond our tables.  In a moment, the oldest dug into his front pocket and handed a few dollars and some change over to the little one.... who bouncing like boys seem to do when excited, came running back full of smiles to put in a donation to our little donation box.  A flashing smile to the lady behind the table and a quick hug to the nearest dog, he went running back to his older brother, shoe laces flying as he jumped from the curb with a small yip of joy.
  Love doesn't require money.  It doesn't require a lot of time.  All it requires is to set our small needs aside for a moment, place oneself in another's shoes and ask yourself what you would want, need.  It's easy with puppy dogs, kittens, things cute and fuzzy.  Harder in others.  I hope I can always let love lead me.