AlamogordoTownNews.com Political Parties have Tough Decisions to Balance Public Safety with Civil Rights

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This storyline will offend individuals on both sides of the party line but the fact remains, volunteers need to disclose past issues, parties like businesses and organizations need to ask questions but still allow participation but in ways that safeguards the public interest. 8.1% of the US population has been incarcerated and re-entry is a delicate balance of protecting the public, and protecting civil rights of all parties.

15 percent of the African-American male population have served time in prison. People with felony convictions more broadly account for 8 percent of the overall population and 33 percent of the African-American male population.

In our communities all over the country people are living, working, paying taxes, or otherwise getting by all while facing the consequences of criminal justice experience that limit their life chances and also have spillover effects into our other social institutions. An example of that spillover is the issue at the County Fair that the Republican Party leadership must now muscle through. 

Difficult decisions for Republicans in how to handle the issue of a registered sex offender at the Republican Party Booth at the Otero County Fair are ahead. There has been dialog it’s an internal issue and will be handled.  How it is handled is a reflection on the Alamogordo Community balancing civil rights with public safety.

Democrats have attacked, however they too should review what safeguards and policies they have in place to ensure a similar issue does not creep up on them all the while protecting the civil rights of all parties.

Rather than attack one another, why don’t the two parties take this issue as an opportunity to educate one another on ex-felon repatriation and how to better embrace and transition those that have fallen back into the community as productive citizens while preserving civil rights and protecting the public good?

We have a crime issue and a homeless issue in Alamogordo and ex-felon reengagement is part of the solution to lower both crime and chronic homelessness. 
 
Ex-felon repatriation back into society and into the political process can be a difficult road to follow. The public is all over the place in how to handle one that is an ex-felon. 

For most political leaders and most business leaders the reintroduction of ex-felons into a productive role in society is a goal, but bias and laws that are punitive make the transition difficult at best for both businesses, political leaders, families and ex-felons.

An ex-felon has a responsibility to reintegration into society, a responsibility to live a clean and honest life, a responsibility to gain employment and become productive, a responsibility to not repeat past behaviors, and a responsibility to be open and transparent about past issues. 

Society has a responsibility to not judge, to safeguard but to ensure civil rights of all parties are respected and to ensure punishment fits a crime, but is not punitive like a scarlet letter for life.

Punitive laws which limit opportunities for ex-felons cause recidivism and prisons to remain full. Laws that prohibit licensing of ex-felons are punitive and lead to lack of employment opportunities thus economic pressures and recidivism or homelessness and eventually crime.

Public bias and condemnation of past sins haunt and stymie opportunities for ex-felons.

Most political leaders and business leaders and social workers support a two tiered system of reintroduction. White collar, non-violent, non-sexual crimes are typically treated to a more positive reintroduction and their recidivism rates show more success in not becoming repeat offenders.

Recidivism is higher to those ex-felons who have a history of violence, drug abuse, mental issues untreated and sexual crimes.

Laws related to the release of these individuals are more punitive with bans on contact, registering with probation authorities and if a sexual crime registering on a public database

According to an April 2011 report by the Pew Center-on the States, the average national recidivism rate for released prisoners is 43%.

One of the main reasons why ex-felons find themselves back in jail is because it is difficult for the individual to fit back in with 'normal' life. They have to reestablish ties with their family, return to high-risk places and secure formal identification; they often have a poor work history and now have a criminal record to deal with. Many prisoners report being anxious about their release; they are excited about how their life will be different "this time" which does not always end up being the case.

Once an individual has completed parole or supervised release they are repatriated with most rights including the right to vote.

The most recent issue with the Republican Party having a registered sexual predator at their booth at the fair was unfortunate and could have been avoided.

The initial blame does not fall on Party leadership but on Anthony Leitch.

This individual had the responsibility to register and had a responsibility to inform anyone around him that he made frequent close contact with of his circumstances. In the workplace or as a volunteer he should have disclosed his issues especially as a registered sex offender.

Once the issue was brought to the attention of leadership of the party its responsibility was then to suspend Mr Leitch from volunteering at the fair pending investigation into the assertion.

Instead, party leadership rallied around a false narrative that is now a blemish on the party and on the political system as a whole. The rush to defense and circling of the wagons in defense was an ill-advised response and not the decision any responsible business or institution of government would condone. 

The response was damaging to party integrity but equally troubling to others within the party that might also be ex-felons that are repatriated, but have been open about their past issues. Transparency is always the best approach by all parties the ex-felon and/or the business or agency or political party involved. 

In Mr Leitch’s case it was not his first offense at sexual misconduct nor his first run in with the legal system in Alamogordo. Mr Leitch had a responsibility to register due to an issue in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He was in several other locations prior to Alamogordo and had issues of concern. 

His arrest and misconduct in Alamogordo that leaders defended him against was NOT his first offense in sexual misconduct and he hoped around the country…

Mr Leitch had a responsibility to register and a responsibility to notify any organization that he was volunteering for or working with of his history. 

The Republican and Democratic parties have responsibility to ensure civil liberties of all parties are protected. However they can ask for a history or to sign a statement that they are not on a sexual register nor a violent offender in the past to volunteer. If leadership was aware he could have volunteered just not at events with minors present.

Party Leadership should work with the city police and other law enforcement agencies and verify if indeed he is required to be on the predator registry for life as it is alleged in court documents.

If indeed he is still required to be on the registry is Jen under supervision or probation, if so then that would mean all terms of probation and release have not been met and he is not fully repatriated to society.

A good information source on Rehabilitative Justice can be found at https://www.jrsa.org/pubs/factsheets/jrsa-research-brief-restorative-ju…

Ex-offender reentry programs are proven to help recidivism rates among all ex-offenders regardless of sex, race or creed. Many ex-offenders have a very hard time on the outside after serving their sentences. Ex-offenders have difficulties finding jobs, adequate housing or even attaining photo identification.

Another source of information on re-entry of those of sex crimes is 

https://www.vera.org/downloads/publications/treatment-and-reentry-pract…

The situation created at the County Fair is unfortunate, has bad optics not only for the Republican Party but for the region.  Let’s hope that solutions are put into place within both parties to screen volunteers not to prevent volunteering to to place them in positions best suited to help the community all the while in compliance with civil rights laws.

Ex-violent offenders and sexual predators have a responsibility to communicate to the employers and to volunteer organizations  issues of their past. It’s not easy however that is the responsibility anyone with a felony in their past must bear in order to ensure safeguards to the public and tranquillity in their own life. 

Good luck to the leadership of the Republican Party in navigation of this issue as a community let’s rally for a solution that protects civil rights and also protects the public at large. 

Some facts to ponder…

  • One in every three US adults has a criminal record.
  • There are 2.3 million people in prison in the US, a 500% increase over the last four decades.
  • 27% of ex-convicts in the US are unemployed, 72% are underemployed due to restrictions on licensing of ex-felons
  • Less than half of all crimes are reported.
  • People of color only make up 37% of the total US population, but 67% of the US prison population.
  • 5.17 million Americans are forbidden to cast their votes in the 2020 election because they have a felony record and are still on probation. Once probation or supervised release is over most states now allow ex-folks to vote. 
  • The average bail bond in the US is $10,000.
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