Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Graham responds to concerns

Graham responds to concerns
By Bob Robinson

“There was only one allegation in the past that I’m aware of that was reported to the police,” John Graham said. “We could find nothing to substantiate it, but the individual’s parole officer still made him wear an ankle bracelet for four months… just to be safe.
“Accusations like that are taken seriously,” he added.
Graham has been under fire in his community – the East Main, Ludlow and Third Street area of Greenville – for his Good Samaritan Program, in which sex offenders are being housed and mentored. A number of individuals made allegations of misconduct by residents at a recent Citizens4Change meeting. They included his residents watching or talking to children and, in one case, whistling at a female neighbor.
He said he has only received one phone call from someone who was unable to give him specific information that he could use to determine who it might have been. He has received no other calls, nor – to his knowledge – have any been made to the police.
“It isn’t a crime to look at or talk to anyone,” Graham said, “but it is a potential parole violation. This person could end up back in prison.”
He added that only a fool would whistle at a woman or engage in dialog with a child knowing the penalty for doing so.
“It’s inconsistent with the clean record our program has had over the past two years,” he said.
Graham has said on a number of occasions that a sex offender who has served his time is a free person… free to live anywhere he chooses as long as he follows the guidelines of his parole.
“The list of restrictions for a felon is severe,” he said. “It is even more comprehensive with a convicted sex offender.” If their parole officer determines they violated any of those restrictions, they go back to jail.
Some of those restrictions include where a convicted sex offender can live. When he and his wife, Kathy, decided to open their home to homeless, then to released felons recommended by local pastors, they knew they couldn’t house sex offenders because of their location. He said they never did.
East Third – which is composed of two separate apartments, plus the sleeping quarters of the homeless shelter, Fitzpatrick House – can only house sex offenders under the “old law.” If the crime was committed prior to 2003, they can stay in one of the apartments.
“The law is not only restrictive,” Graham said, “it’s confusing. If the crime was committed after 2003, they can’t stay in that location.”
The house on Ludlow has no restrictions other than those imposed by the state program that places them.
Graham emphasized that only low risk sex offenders are sent to him in the program. He said 80 percent of all offenders receiving help upon release never reoffend… those are the ones he gets. He doesn’t get the ones in the other 20 percent category.
Graham said he didn’t know how many tier three offenders he had.
“The tier system has been ruled unconstitutional because it is flawed,” he said. “Offenders will only be sent to me if they are considered low risk.”
Graham said Fitzpatrick House (the homeless shelter) also has its own rules, taken from the Community Action Partnership (CAP) rules.
“We follow their rules exactly,” he said.
They must leave by 10 a.m. and cannot return until 5 p.m. They have to be in residence by 10 p.m. It is a place to sleep – the same as CAP – while they are out looking for a job during the day.
Graham said the three units are secured, separate facilities, monitored and locked down every night. He added that the vast majority of homeless are single males; seldom does there seem to be a need for shelter for women with or without children.
The unit on East Main is a low-income rental. The only requirement for residents is a source of income and a willingness to be mentored. Two tenants are working and two are on social security.
Graham said there are four sex offenders at Ludlow, two (old law) offenders in the individual apartments on Third Street and four offenders on Main Street. Third Street and Main Street are available to any convicted felon who qualifies, but the need for housing – due to restrictions – is greater among sex offenders than other felons.
Graham said that rather than being a drain on county resources, his program has been a resource for local agencies.
“On average, we help 80-90 people a year at the Fitzpatrick House,” he said. Most are referred by Darke County Mental Health, Greenville Police Department and CAP. He thought it unlikely that other counties are sending people here because they have strong programs of their own.
More to come.

Bob Robinson is the retired editor of The Daily Advocate, Greenville, Ohio. If you wish to receive his opinion comments by direct email or receive notification when a blog is posted, send your email address to: opinionsbybob@gmail.com. Feel free to express your views.

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