My Turn: Let RTT continue its counseling services without undue prejudice
I have listened to the dialogue for the past several weeks about the counseling center on Beacon Street and am compelled to speak out. There, but for the grace of God, go how many of us in need of counseling for one reason or another? We are always so quick to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But is that the wise and sensible thing to do?
RTT has operated since 2005 without incident and continues to operate without incident today. A city prosecutor indicated a link between an accused sexual offender and the RTT counseling center, but correlation has never equaled causation. A city councilor, in good faith, made an inquiry on behalf of her constituents because of the public outcry that ensued. The landlord, and by default RTT Associates, received an eviction notice. Wow. Lady Justice is blind for a reason, but apparently there is no room for her objectivity in city politics! Sadly it is the people of Concord (all the people of Concord) who will pay the price for these rash decisions.
Research has shown that counseling makes a difference – ask those around you who rely on regular counseling sessions to manage the everyday stresses of their lives. For the vast majority of offenders, sex offenders or otherwise, therapy has reduced recidivism and improved outcomes for individuals and their families. Indeed, the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence has spoken out against similar restrictions that would have driven offenders underground – namely residency restrictions. Back in 2008, Derry sought to enact residency restrictions against registered sex offenders as a reaction to a convicted child molester and murderer moving to town and living near a school, ostensibly in a residential area. Ironically, Amanda Grady Sexton, the city councilor for Ward 4, was recently quoted as saying she doesn’t think the RTT center belongs in a residential area.
However, the coalition had her speak at a Derry town meeting to oppose residency restrictions, indicating specifically that “education and programs are more important.” So which is it? Grady Sexton has failed to take a stand and educate her ward about the dangers of recidivism without treatment and has failed to point to the research that indicates isolation and exclusion from re-integration services are counterproductive to public safety initiatives.
There are more than 150 registered sex offenders living within the same zip code as the RTT counseling center on Beacon Street. With those high numbers and the public hysteria, wouldn’t we expect to see the police called to these?
More to the point, we don’t appoint our elected officials to act on our (or their) emotions in response to a crisis. We certainly don’t anticipate the city suspending all pastoral counseling services that churches provide if those churches are located in residential neighborhoods simply because felons, sex offenders, adulterers, drug users and spousal abusers seek help from them, do we? And how many walk among us who committed serious crimes decades ago and were never caught? The numbers are untold, and the end result is the same.
Treatment benefits everyone. RTT should be allowed to continue its services without undue prejudice because some of its clientele come from a less than desirable population.
(Rebecca Levesque lives in Concord.)