Several Feet from a Good Solution
Jessica's Law drives sex offenders underground: Thanks so much for running Lauren Smiley's article on life in San Francisco for those who fall under Jessica's Law while still on parole ["Perverting Justice," Feature, 12/30]. Her rich tableau of men playing hopscotch with ever-changing interpretations of what constitutes a place where they can lawfully sleep each night could have come right out of Kafka. She shows us a murky world where what was a lawful site last night can become a reason to send a man back to prison tomorrow.
Two-hour time limits on where a man can stay indoors in this freezing weather strain any notion of the law's humanity. According to Smiley, it is almost predictable that it leads some to drink and do crack. It can be counted on that some will undoubtedly simply chop off their GPS devices and go fugitive. And, once that happens, you just know they will be back on the road that will lead them to reoffending.
As a board member of a nonprofit that wants to create a re-entry facility for these men — where they can be trained in governing their sexual urges before putting down roots in the community again — I have also filed a brief in the case that our state Supreme Court is now considering. Another one of this law's effects would prevent us from [opening such facilities] by compelling the men to leave if a new park or school were established within 2,000 feet of any site we set up, compelling us to move to keep them in training. No organization could possibly afford to purchase that many sites in a row.
If this is a "child safety" law, may the chil-dren be saved from it.
Development Center of California
Get outta town: It sounds like it's nearly impossible for these folks to live in a superdense city like San Francisco. So why not move to a more spread-out town? I understand that the terms of parole make it difficult to move, but surely it's not impossible.
It seems it would be in everyone's best interests — the sex offenders', San Francisco's, California's — to place these people in towns where there's the best likelihood of rehabilitation and least likelihood of a repeat offense.
Lauren Smiley responds: Transferring parolees to other counties is not easy. They can be approved to move to seek medical care or education, or if victims request it, among other reasons. Yet parole agents say sex offenders cannot move just because they can't find housing compliant with Jessica's Law in San Francisco.
To be apathetic: This isn't just a San Francisco problem — it's a California problem ["The Worst-Run Big City in the U.S.," Benjamin Wachs and Joe Eskenazi, Feature, 12/16]. We have a taxation structure that promotes renter scenarios, and thus it's created cities like S.F. that have transient populations and citizens who aren't willing or able to hold their elected representatives accountable.
Most renters, like me, don't care — because there's no way we could live here or want to live here for an extended period. Proposition 13 [which lowered state property taxes] was the worst thing to happen to California. If there were no Prop. 13, there's no way in hell all the landlords would be able to afford to buy in this city. You could make the case that they don't care what happens to the city as long as they can collect rent.
On the bright side, everyone complains about Muni, but I see a bus system that gets me from point A to point B on a regular basis. I waited a grand total of 10 minutes to get across town both ways. Try that in Los Angeles.
Some of the roads need repair, but nothing like the ones I regularly drove in Long Beach and Southern California. In many ways, San Francisco is better than when I was here in the mid-'90s. As far as the people who complain — how about going to city meetings? Get involved if you want to fix it.