Citizens voice concerns about scapegoating former prisoners

Rockland Council makes proposed law on group homes retroactive

By Stephen Betts | Jul 02, 2019
Source: File photo

Rockland — The Rockland City Council amended Monday night, Junly 1, a controversial proposed law to regulate group homes by making it retroactive to last month.

The goal of the change is to allow the council more time to work on the ordinance amendment knowing that if it gains final passage it will still cover the yet-to-be opened reentry house on Talbot Avenue for former prisoners.

The original ordinance amendment was put forth by Councilor Valli Geiger and given unanimous preliminary approval June 24. The change made Monday evening will postpone a previously scheduled public hearing and final vote from July 15 to Aug. 12.

The ordinance change would redefine the words "family" and "lodging" in the city ordinances in an effort to make sure that group homes such as the proposed reentry house at 215 Talbot Ave. are reviewed by the Planning Board.

As opposed to last month's City Council meetings, in which the overwhelming number of speakers urged approval of such a law, the July 1 meeting was filled with people who saw the proposed law as an affront to civil rights.

Resident Nate Davis said he could not believe his ears when he heard the comments made last month about the perceived threat from having a house where former prisoners are transitioned back into the community.

He said mass incarceration was a real phenomenon in the United States that creates a permanent underclass. He said any obstacle imposed on the reintegration of prisoners into society contributes to the situation.

"I ask that you think about the devastating generational poverty that afflicts parts of Rockland and the surrounding communities, and of the opioid epidemic that has deprived children of their childhoods, and of all the times in your own lives when a slightly different choice or twist of fate may have led to a radically different outcome," Davis said.

He and other speakers reminded councilors of the diversity resolution approved in 2017 that states "we stand in solidarity with all who are marginalized or threatened, and we will work to make our community a safer place where each person's dignity is honored. We believe that everyone has a right to clean air, clean water, shelter, safety, food and pleasure; and that, we oppose any policy on the part of any government or business which scapegoats people, spreads inequality, and intentionally takes rights away from the most vulnerable among us."

Resident Becca Shaw Glaser also pointed out that the city passed the diversity resolution two years ago and this proposed ordinance change would go against that.

"These are people, not prisoners, not predators, not 'these people,'" Shaw Glaser said.

She said the ordinance was mainly about classism.

Residents also voiced concern that the ordinance would interfere with creative roommate arrangements.

A link to the proposed ordinance change is here.

Comments (6)
Posted by: Amy Files | Jul 02, 2019 13:22

What's missing in this article is the actual language of the proposed "law" -- it is not targeted only towards group homes. It would apply to any unrelated adults living together in any kind of housing -- in any part of the city -- requiring that they share "the entire house, living and cooking together, and sharing expenses for food, rent, utilities or other household expenses"... this allows for the City to scrutinize the private relationships between unrelated adults living together in a home and would call into question all kinds of living situations: people who aren't married, "family" members that aren't related by blood, roommates, and more. And of course it will be most likely used not against the most affluent in our city but the poorer and most vulnerable. In addition -- to target group homes is to target housing access for some of the most vulnerable in our city -- elderly and handicapped who can't live independently without assistance for example. If you are rich and own your own home, you can hire a cook, full-time nurse, etc to live in your home and you are allowed to live anywhere you'd like. But if you require the same assistance and so need to utilize a group home—then your situation would require both review and approval by the City, not to mention likely limitations on which neighborhoods they will be allowed to live. This policy creates an unfair double-standard and it does not align with the values professed by our elected officials to work to provide more housing access — not less.



Posted by: Amy Files | Jul 02, 2019 13:18

What's missing in this article is the actual language of the proposed "law" -- it is not targeted only towards group homes. It would apply to any unrelated adults living together in any kind of housing -- in any part of the city -- requiring that they share "the entire house, living and cooking together, and sharing expenses for food, rent, utilities or other household expenses"... this allows for the City to scrutinize the private relationships between unrelated adults living together in a home and would call into question all kinds of living situations: people who aren't married, "family" members that aren't related by blood, roommates, and more. And of course it will be most likely used not against the most affluent in our city but the poorer and most vulnerable. In addition -- to target group homes is to target housing access for some of the most vulnerable in our city -- elderly and handicapped who can't live independently without assistance for example. If you are rich and own your own home, you can hire a cook, full-time nurse, etc to live in your home and you are allowed to live anywhere you'd like. But if you require the same assistance and so need to utilize a group home—then your situation would require both review and approval by the City, not to mention likely limitations on which neighborhoods they will be allowed to live. This policy creates an unfair double-standard and it does not align with the values professed by our elected officials to work to provide more housing access — not less.



Posted by: George Terrien | Jul 02, 2019 12:05

My memory of civics class is that we commit to the rule of law, in part, by prohibiting making law ex post facto (that means "after the fact," by the way, and appears in the US Constitution Article I Section 9 and 10, barring the Congress or any state respectively from passing "ex post facto law", and in the Maine Constitution to bar the Legislature from the same).

Why would Rockland see municipal justice as requiring any less?

If I understand the revision last night to this VS article correctly, that our Council proposes a "law to regulate group homes by making it retroactive to last month", perhaps our Council and the paper could tell us why we should not feel outraged?  Or are we-the-stupid-people so inured to such insult against the rule of law that we have given up defending our founding values, even on our Council's doorstep?

Nonplussed?  Or is it NOT too late?  What's your answer?  Where is our conscience?



Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Jul 01, 2019 16:05

You always tell when someone has posted something too rational and reasonable for a right winger to comprehend.  They go all hysterical in all caps to respond.  There, there, Dale.  Calm down, and re-read it five times.  By the end you'll actually understand what was said.  Then it won't frighten you so much.



Posted by: Dale Hayward | Jul 01, 2019 13:41

WOW, YOU GO GEORGE. AT A BOY. ALL THE ANSWERS.



Posted by: George Terrien | Jul 01, 2019 12:11

Addressing the accommodation of recently released convicts, isn’t the problem upstream from reentry into society?  Now addressing THAT issue I have long supported.  Restorative justice and incarceration focused on rehabilitation would be humane.  Imprisonment as punishment does not seem to have produced the desired results.  Many think that prison serves, in effect, as a training ground and dating bar for criminals.  And, in case you were wondering, I would not oppose such a rehabilitation facility in my neighborhood.
Moreover, numerous examples of such humanitarian support of reintegration of former prisoners exist.  Perhaps our community could focus on this restoration of citizenship.



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