Making sure our words match our values
To the editor:
I’m writing to take issue with language used by Commissioners Griffith and Hart in the August 21 city commission meeting about parolees and their related support services being “dumped” on our community. If we ultimately hope that these fellow citizens and neighbors who have served time will be restored to our community, then we shouldn’t use words that typically describe what we do with our trash to describe human beings, even if they’ve made mistakes. I know both Commissioner Hart and Commissioner Griffith personally to be very kind, thoughtful people, so this is a good reminder to us all to be careful about our language and make sure our words match our values.
I would also appreciate seeing some statistical evidence, beyond just the number of parolees who live in Three Rivers, to support Commissioner Griffith’s statement that Three Rivers has reached a “saturation point” with the number of parolees who live in our community. Is Three Rivers experiencing a greater number of crimes committed by previous offenders than other communities in our county? If not, or if we simply don’t know the answer, a vague sense of “saturation” should not be used as a reason to fail to offer another layer of support that could decrease recidivism. And if so, then we obviously need that support for our parolees even more! Many who have been incarcerated and served time on parole are already living in our community. Why wouldn’t we want to improve services in order to reduce the likelihood of reoffending, build skills and connections, and reaffirm our fellow citizens’ humanity?
I do agree with Commissioner Hart that projects perceived as NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) do tend to be located in the second ward neighborhood, for a host of complex reasons, and this is something our community as a whole should keep discussing. In this case, however, the property under consideration is already owned by an organization that is ideally situated to provide the best possible support for parolees in our community.
My home is just a half-mile from the former probation center and I’m also involved with the Huss Project in second ward, so I have a personal interest in what happens at the former probation center property. I would love to see it become a beautiful, vibrant space dedicated to welcoming our formerly incarcerated neighbors back into full participation in society with the types of support—transportation, housing, job development—that are proven to keep former offenders out for good. As Commissioner Griffith said, “As a community, we do need to be compassionate and we do have to provide some place for these people to come back to.” Perhaps we can be the first to create a successful model that can be adopted by Sturgis and other communities in our county as well! We have some good work to do.