Dear Mayor Sessom and Council Members,
On Sept. 18, we urge you to uphold your Planning Commission's vote to disapprove PDP92-06M4, involving the McAlister Institute's desire to transfer 40 beds from its long-time rehabilitation program to a post-release parolee program at the substance abuse rehab facility on Skyline Drive. The proposal is for a pilot program—the only one of its kind--for all of San Diego County. Pilot programs have a way of turning into permanent programs.
With California's prison population exploding, the state is desperate to move some 2,000 "early release" parolees, however dangerous, from 33 state prisons into communities. But in San Diego County, Lemon Grove alone has the dubious distinction of being proposed as the dumping ground for as many as seven parolees every day for years to come.
We urge you to protect and defend the neighborhoods around McAlister, and our small city, from an influx of hard-core criminals whose offenses include rape, homicide, arson, kidnapping and more. It matters not that they are here temporarily until some other place can be found for them. What matters is that they are here at all.
McAlister is not a secure facility. It is a rehab center. It is not a prison and the proposed inmates will not be locked down. How will it contain criminals, 85 percent of whom will test positive for drug and alcohol addiction upon arrival at McAlister? Moreover, 20 percent are expected to have mental health issues and 87 percent are expected to be repeat offenders.
There are 10 schools, four public parks, a senior center and several day care centers, within 3.8 square miles of McAlister. Our Sheriff substation will soon close and relocate to Rancho San Diego.
Many of us in the community have worked for years, and are working hard now, to upgrade Lemon Grove's image, raise its property values and secure its future as a welcoming, safe community with good schools and pleasant neighborhoods. Surely, no responsible public official would ignore these efforts—and the council's own stated aspirations for a better Lemon Grove—and vote to install a risky prison population smack in the middle of residential neighborhoods.
We are appalled at the cavalier attitude of San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, County Probation Officer Mack Jenkins, Super Court Judge David Danielson, Sheriff Bill Gore, and other officials, who do not live in our town, in supporting McAlister. Clearly, for these officials, Lemon Grove is nothing more than an expedient means to an end: warehouse criminals here and solve the problem.
Doubtless, CEO Jeanne McAlister will arrive at the public hearing on Sept. 18 flanked by some of the above, or their surrogates, and plead her cause as noble and needed. Doubtless the county offers our city the carrot of money in hard times. But what of the well-being of your own residents? What of their safety and security and freedom to enjoy their homes and properties? What of our schools, which need to be safe 24/7? Don't they matter more than the chronic presence in our midst of more of the anti-social, the pathological and the addicted?
Please uphold the Planning Commission's decision.
Jack and Helen Ofield
30-year residents of Lemon Grove