Murder sucks. Rape sucks. In fact, all violent crime sucks. Eradicating it sure would make the world a nicer place to live. I don’t know anyone who would argue with any of that. But after all that agreement, unity breaks down. Emotional outrage and grief take hold and rational thought evaporates. What then?
When an airline pilot remains calm in an emergency situation and lands a plane in the Hudson River with no loss of life he’s a hero. When an organization that works to address one of the factors that leads to violent crime, including sexual offenses, remains calm in the wake of a violent crime, do we applaud them? My experience is no. When the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless (GCCH) sent out a statement supporting the continuing efforts of the Volunteers of America, Ohio River Valley (VOA-ORV) and the Pogue Center my immediate reactions was “Good for you!” Which was immediately followed by, “They are so screwed.”
Local news media are repeating over and over the details of Esme Kenney’s murder was allegedly committed by Anthony Kirkland and speculate that he might be responsible for other unsolved murders – even though the coroner has no evidence of this – and they shake their heads (literally) over the “senseless tragedy.” And they stop there. Jumping on the bandwagon of pity and fueling guilty-until-proven-innocent in carefully worded copy, they don’t bother to consider what Josh Spring, GCCH executive director, says in his statement.
“VOA-ORV is working to end and prevent homelessness through providing services to people who often otherwise would not receive needed services,” Spring says. “The Pogue Rehabilitation Center is included in this work. Those who live at the Pogue Rehabilitation Center, some of whom are sex-offenders, in many, if not most cases would be homeless if it were not for the existence of and programming run by the VOA at the Pogue Center.”
If local media would move beyond the hype they would learn that sex offenders have the lowest rate of repeat offenses when they receive treatment and have a stable home situation, steady employment and support for rehabilitation efforts. What makes a community safe, what makes children safe, is helping those who commit crime learn from the wrong decisions and actions and learn new ways of being to avoid repeating those mistakes. Removing the resources they need for this change makes everyone more vulnerable, and Spring knows that.
“The VOA and Pogue Center are … preventing homelessness for those who reside at the center,” he says. “Earlier this week Cincinnati City Council called for both the Governor and the State of Ohio to close the Pogue Center. County Commissioner David Pepper also called for the closure of the facility. It is the official stance of the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless that the Pogue Center must remain open. We are thoroughly against the ignorant demands at all levels of government for the Pogue Rehabilitation Center to be closed.
“If it were not for the existence of the Pogue Rehabilitation Center, most of those who live at this facility, including those who are sex-offenders would be homeless. Without the existence of the Pogue Center future sex-offenders would also be more likely to be homeless. They would not only be homeless, but most likely homeless and on the street. Most of our shelters due to proximity to schools are not allowed to shelter people who are sex offenders. “It is far more dangerous for all involved, including our city and region as a whole to have people who are sex-offenders living on the street … Without the Pogue Center the level of possibility for crimes to be committed against others in our area would simply increase exponentially.”
Yes, crime sucks. But before we rush to judgment and act in a way that will create more crime, we need to recognize the value of remaining calm and thoughtful.