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Ringgold, GA: A town with compassion

By Tamara Wolk . . . It’s probably not often that a group of people ranging from pastors to city and county government, law enforcement, judges, social services, citizens and the homeless gather in one location to try to understand and solve a serious problem together. That’s what happened at Ringgold Baptist Church the cold afternoon of Thursday, Nov. 15.

The city of Ringgold has been grappling with the issue of several homeless men living under a bridge. Residents have expressed concerns ranging from the safety of children to problems for nearby businesses, litter and the integrity of the bridge structure because fires were being built under it.

Ringgold City Council passed an “emergency urban camping ordinance” at its Nov. 12 meeting that resulted in deadlines for those living under the bridge to find other accommodations.

By the time of the community gathering of dozens of people at Ringgold Baptist, only one man remained a resident under the bridge. The group ended up addressing that immediate need and also dis-cussed the greater problem of people returning to society from prison without a social safety net, without financial resources and with a prison record that limits their ability to find housing or work.

A particular problem that was discussed was homeless people who have been sex offenders and are listed on the sex offender registry.

Numerous people took to the microphone to explain the complications of a sex-offender background. Representatives from the Georgia Department of Community Supervision (DCS) spoke and handed out an information sheet that offered statistics and tried to clarify some misunderstandings.

The DCS sheet notes that the “number of supervised sex offenders re-leased from prison to reside in Catoosa County this year has been 23.” Nine of those were “immediately homeless after release.”

The sheet goes on to say that 88 sex offenders currently live in Catoosa County, two of whom are homeless. Further, says the info sheet, DCS District 7, which includes Catoosa and 13 other counties, has the highest number of supervised sex offenders of all DCS districts in the state, but not a single shelter to help them even on an emergency basis. . . .

A local resident shared the story of his grandson who was convicted of statutory rape when he was 17 years old. The girl he was involved with was 15 and the grandfather said the relationship was consensual. The boy’s family spent $25,000 to keep him out of jail but, says the grandfather, “He had that sex offender tag that made it hard for him to find work or a place to live.” The boy, says the grandfather, missed a single meeting with his probation officer and ended up in prison for five years over it.

Read the full story here at northwestgeorgianews.com

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This topic contains 4 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  TS 4 weeks ago.

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  • #49003 Reply

    admin

    By Tamara Wolk . . . It’s probably not often that a group of people ranging from pastors to city and county government, law enforcement, judges, socia
    [See the full post at: Ringgold, GA: A town with compassion]

  • #49033 Reply

    anonymous

    for any one that wants to read the entire thing and don’t want to make a account you can use this. log in, anonymous1 pass 1234567890

    its made with a throwaway email that no one not even me have access to. your welcom

  • #49030 Reply

    TS

    There were two articles together which addressed this issue. It is good to see they took notice and discussed the issue before the chicken littles of the area cried for the town to do something they did not need to beyond what they did.

  • #49049 Reply

    Dustin

    Georgia has a handful of prison transition centers throughout the state, where inmates are put to work through temp agencies so they have something more than the $35 and a bus ticket to the county that convicted them to begin life after incarceration. Only one of them, Phillips TC, accepts those convicted of sex offenses. I know because I spent the last 9 months of my incarceration there.

    The only jobs available at Phillips were very labor intensive – chicken processing plants, warehouses, and so on. When I was there, there was an 85 year old man who had been locked up for over 50 years. No way he could do the work required, and not tech savvy enough to work at the only place that did’t involve back-breaking labor (customer service call center). He ended up just sitting around the TC his whole stay. I don’t know what ever happened to him; he had no friends or family to lean on, and I presume he’s not at the center any more (there’s a 2 year limit). I’m guessing he was either returned to prison or is now homeless somewhere in Georgia (assuming he’s still alive).

    I don’t know why Phillips is the only TC available to registrants. There’s another in Claxton that was declared off-limits because there’s a women’s probation detention center across the street (I walked by them every day when I worked at the plant there). Maybe I’m biased, but that seems a pretty flimsy excuse to keep registrants out of there – if security at both centers is that week, one should wonder if either should be operating at all. I’m guessing the reasons for excluding registrants at the other TCs is equally or more flimsy.

    My overall point is that the registrants under the bridge that drove this story likely had no choice beyond that bridge. Bed space has always been a problem for Georgia TCs, exacerbated by the exclusion of registrants from all of them but Phillips.

    I would also have liked the reporter of this article to have talked about the reactions of the city council members at this forum. They’re the ones who enacted the insane ordinance (further) criminalizing the homeless. Council member Sara Clark was quoted in the original story as the ordinance specifically pertaining to the homeless, presumably to doge an accusation of picking on registrants. Council member Larry Black, author of the ordinance, claimed it necessary because, “We have no way of knowing what that person is doing, as far as our safety concerns of our children, at 3, 4 o’clock in the morning, when we’re very vulnerable,” as though Ringgold children are out and about at 3, 4 o’clock in the morning, no one locks their doors at night, and all law enforcement is off duty.

    Has there been a wave of sex crime since those men started living under that bridge? Increase in burglaries or stalking? Peeping Tom’s? Any unsolved crime of any kind? I presume not.

    That DCS isn’t required to notify residents of nearby registrants is not exactly true. Supposedly, notifying communities of registrant presence is the whole point of the registry in the first place. Do the original complainants really expect someone to go door to door to tell them a registrant just moved in nearby? Further, if such notification is to allow people to “take steps to protect themselves from potential threats,” what steps are they supposed to take that are different from those taken against strangers anyway? How is it that the registry has been in existence for 20+ years and no one has even asked (let alone answered) that question?

    I personally don’t buy for one second that those men’s probation officer(s) didn’t tell them to go live under that bridge. It doesn’t even pass the common sense test. They claim to assist in finding housing though they’re not required to, so what do they tell those that they can’t find housing for? Is it sheer coincidence that those men are registrants and just happened to find the one place in Ringgold that was both free and within local residence restrictions that, until the recent ordinance, didn’t subject them to penalty simply for being there? A bit of a stretch, if you ask me.

    And finally, I find it disturbing that this article only allows for public comments via Facebook. I’m sure many registrants have a lot to say about it (for or against) and can’t have their opinions heard due to Facebook policy (and laws or probation/parole conditions). I’m not suggesting all media needs to offer alternatives, just that laws/rules precluding registrants from using Facebook (et. al.) need to be stricken.

  • #49130 Reply

    Anthony

    The purpose of keeping sex offenders silent online is to make sure they do not build any momentum to make change for the betterment of everybody in general. Attitude with a fortitude!

  • #49190 Reply

    R M

    “… DCS says it does help supervised individuals find housing, although it is not required to do so.” According to their website Our Mission page: “As an integral part of the criminal justice system, we protect and serve all Georgia citizens through effective and efficient offender supervision in our communities, while providing opportunities for successful outcomes.”

    Successful outcomes for whom? Society, which would rather see all of us back in prison or dead, or the RC’s, which just want a fair chance? In my opinion, PO’s and DCS have only one goal… find a violation and send us back to prison. By the way, in NJ (at that time) , a violation of a restriction could land a RC back behind bars for up to 30, yes 30, years.

    When I got out of prison in NJ, I was put up in a sleazy hotel for one night and then another sleazy hotel for 2 weeks. It was then up to me to find my own place, which I did after I sought and got emergency funds from the state. During those 2 weeks I found a job (wasn’t listed on the public registry) and found a better place to live where I stayed for 5 years.

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