Sunday, April 26, 2009

Let America Be America Again - A Poem by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.

O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?

For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--

Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

LA - Gun-Offender Registry

View the article here

Bring it on! The more registries, the better. Then more people will be coming out against all this nonsense!


Shreveport - Similar to the sex offender registry, a gun-offender registry has been proposed as a city ordinance by Shreveport Police Chief Henry Whitehorn.

The registry would require people convicted of gun-related crimes to register with police to let them know where they are living. Eventually, it could turn into a public online registry with photographs and statistics.

Of course, there would never be the possibility that the definition of gun-offender would be expanded.

SD - Laws push convicts into concentrated areas

View the article here


By Matthew Gruchow

Clusters could hasten decline in neighborhoods

As many as 70 convicted sex offenders live in less than one square mile in central Sioux Falls and another 20 live in a 15-block area nearby.

More than 150 registered sex offenders live clustered in some of the city's poorest sections because legal restrictions, rental policies and scarce affordable housing choices give them few alternatives, an Argus Leader analysis showed.

The large number of convicts living in close quarters is both a symptom and a cause of a neighborhood's decline. As Sioux Falls attempts to revitalize declining central neighborhoods such as Pettigrew Heights, that is a daunting concern.

And, for the sex offenders themselves, housing problems are a troublesome obstacle during the critical transition from prison to freedom.

The Argus Leader mapped housing data provided by Sioux Falls police and publicly available through the state Sex Offender Registry. The analysis showed:

  • Restrictions and housing costs have created at least five areas in the city where sex offenders live in high concentrations.
  • More than one-third of all the registered sex offenders who live in Sioux Falls live in these five clusters - islands amid the rest of the city where inexpensive housing without restrictions is readily available.
  • Restrictions banning offenders from the areas around schools and parks do little to break up clusters of sex offenders. The identified groupings of sex offenders contain schools, parks and playgrounds.

Banned from halfway homes and homeless shelters, sex offenders congregate in certain neighborhoods as they attempt to work around a network of community safe zones, said Dave Johnson, executive director of the Glory House, the only transitional housing option for sex offenders in Sioux Falls.

State law prohibits sex offenders from living within 500 feet of public and private schools, parks, playgrounds and public pools. There are more than 130 such facilities in Sioux Falls, and the areas surrounding them are known as Community Safe Zones. For example, there are dozens of sex offenders living within several blocks of Hawthorne Elementary School on North Spring Avenue. But a halo surrounds the school itself.

"There's a very defined area where they can get into a place to stay," Johnson said. "So they might really struggle to find a place to live."

After being released from prison, it typically takes a sex offender 45 to 60 days to find a place to live, he said.

Increasingly, the places where they eventually settle are on streets or blocks already heavily populated by sex offenders, some released from prison years or decades earlier.

In Minneapolis, a clustering of sex offenders in at least two major neighborhoods led to property value decline and left residents feeling defeated in their efforts to maintain safe and respectable communities, said Jon Hinchliff, Minneapolis Police Offender Notification Supervisor.

"It causes communities to deteriorate and other problems that you just don't need," Hinchliff said.

The same troubling problem now afflicts Sioux Falls.

The grouping of sex offenders could be a factor in future discussions on revitalization and preservation efforts in some city neighborhoods, Sioux Falls City Councilor Vernon Brown said.

Troubled areas get worse

On Thursday, police arrested a Sioux Falls sex offender after he allegedly loitered in his van near two Sioux Falls parks.

_____, 59, is one of about 430 sex offenders who live in Sioux Falls, not counting those who are incarcerated in the state penitentiary here.

Data show that one neighborhood had a higher concentration of sex offenders than anywhere else in the city.

That area, bordered by Minnesota and Lake avenues and 17th and Fifth streets, is home to about 70 sex offenders. A nearby area bordered by First and Seventh streets and Weber and Lewis avenues contained about 40 sex offenders.

The data excluded homeless sex offenders and those who were incarcerated when the study was conducted earlier this year.

In Minneapolis, Hinchliff said, the neighborhoods that saw clustering of offenders had common elements of low rent, high crime rates and large numbers of absentee landlords and poor residents. Adding large numbers of sex offenders to such neighborhoods can exacerbate already troubled communities, he said.

"There's a perception in those neighborhoods that they have a lot of problems to overcome and you get a real sense of defeatism that sets in," Hinchliff said. "It's just an additional issue, an additional problem along with all the other problems going on."

High turnover in neighborhood

Sioux Falls resident Roy Sudenga, 74, has lived and rented out property along Duluth Avenue for years. He worried that the high number of sex offenders could affect his ability to draw new tenants to his property, particularly families with young children.

"Would you as a parent with two small children live in a neighborhood with a high number of sex offenders? I know I sure wouldn't," Sudenga said.

Ghirmay Solomon lives near Sixth Street and Spring Avenue with his wife, three young daughters and one young son. The presence of so many sex offenders has made him more vigilant about his children's whereabouts and who they interact with, he said.

"You get scared," Solomon said. "I never know, but maybe next time they could be a target."

The neighborhood sees a high turnover of residents, which makes it more difficult to feel safe when you do not know your neighbors, he said.

"It's hard to know your neighbors here with all the going in and out," Solomon said.

When Elaine Wingert and her husband, Ron, moved into a home near Seventh Street and Van Eps Avenue about 45 years ago, the area was filled with middle-class working families. Those families owned their homes and a tightly knit, safe community developed over the years, she said.

"I had no problem with letting my kids run around out there," Wingert said.

About 20 years ago, as the homeowners aged or died and children moved away, the neighborhood began to change, she said. Though it wasn't an outright decline, drugs and other crimes began to creep into the area, and fewer families moved back in, Wingert said.

"As people got older and they sold their homes, there got to be lots of rental property and people weren't taking care of things like they should," she said.

Though Wingert said she still feels safe in her neighborhood, the concentration of sex offenders could signal another, less positive change in the quality of life in the area.

"The good people are going to move out, and your property values are going to go down," she said.

The number of sex offenders was a surprise to Brandie Haraldson, who moved into a home near Fourth Street and Wayland Avenue in December. With a 2-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter, she said she is much more vigilant about her children's activities outside.

"My daughter can't walk alone anywhere," she said. "I don't leave them alone outside. Where we used to live, they used to go to the park by themselves all the time."

Haraldson said she found out about the number of sex offenders in her ZIP code after she checked the online sex offender registry shortly after moving in. But like Wingert and Ferrie, she feels there are more pressing crime concerns than sex offenders.

The need for few enticements

Sex offenders, like any other convicts intent on recovery and rehabilitation, are best served with fewer enticements and negative influences, said Scott Pribyl, a Sioux Falls psychologist who treats sex offenders. He said there has not been enough research to conclusively link recidivism in sex offenders to their living around other sex offenders.

"I think they need to be more on guard if they're surrounded by more risks," Pribyl said.

A February 2007 report published by the U.S. Department of Justice's Center for Sex Offender Management suggests attempts to keep them out of neighborhoods can even make matters worse.

While well intentioned, some safety zone restrictions can compromise public safety. Those restrictions can exacerbate risk factors for sex offenders by increasing housing and employment instability, reducing community support, and increasing hostility and resentment, according to the report.

"In reality ... the proximity of sex offenders' residences to schools and parks do not appear to be linked to incidents of new sex crimes in communities," according to the report.

Sex offenders can be successfully reintegrated into a community with steady employment and housing along with strict accountability, said Johnson, of the Glory House. The agency has case managers to help sex offenders find housing and has agreements with some properties who rent to sex offenders despite their crimes, he said.

"When most of these landlords hear the crime, they are just very leery about renting to our clients," Johnson said.

GPS tracking, random job site checks and other accountability measures have been put in place by the Glory House in order to keep tabs on sex offenders in the community and reduce the risk to the neighborhoods they live in, he said.

"Our perspective has always been providing them with program needs and strict accountability. We can protect the public if we provide those two things rather than just letting them be released right into the community from jail or prison," Johnson said.

Can't afford to live elsewhere

Nate Perkins, who has lived with his wife near Sixth Street and Duluth Avenue for less than a year, was not aware of the number of sex offenders in the neighborhood when they moved to Sioux Falls.

They have at least one offender as a nearby neighbor, but the higher concentration of offenders has not translated into a sense of unease about the area, he said.

"I don't feel like I'm in any more danger here than anywhere else in the city," Perkins said.

He and his wife have settled into the neighborhood for the long term and expect that the neighborhood will change for the better in coming years.

According to the Justice Department report, "the inability of offenders to secure affordable housing and adequate housing and employment is among the most significant barriers to effective re-entry, and this challenge becomes even more pronounced when sex offenders are involved."

But there are plenty of housing options still available to sex offenders in Sioux Falls despite safe zones and other housing restrictions, said Sioux Falls Police Det. Ron Harris, who is in charge of sex offender compliance. And the police department is able to quickly tell an offender whether a proposed address is off limits to them.

Clustering of offenders in certain neighborhoods might demonstrate income and housing affordability issues, rather than an overall lack of housing for offenders, he said.

"But I know there's housing available in all ranges of incomes," Harris said. "I have people who have homes, who are purchasing homes, people living in apartments, people renting motels from week to week."

Jill Reiter, property manager for Oakmont Estates in Sioux Falls, said the property's parent company has a policy against renting to persons with crimes against others, which includes sex offenders. Additionally, Oakmont Estates participates in the city's crime-free housing program and cannot rent to sex offenders.

"I actually did have a gal who lived here and moved her fiancé in, and he was a registered sex offender," Reiter said. "I had to ask them to leave."

Reiter said offenders occasionally call her for rental information, but she must refer them to other properties, typically ones owned by private individuals.

"Some of the smaller properties might be more willing to rent to them," she said.

Reiter said she probably would continue not renting to sex offenders even if there had not already been a policy in place. Her residents have said they feel safer knowing the prospective tenants are being screened, she said.

"They like knowing that their neighbors aren't criminals."