Saturday, August 18, 2007

Mayoral Candidate Debate on how to eradicate homelessness

Metro Government spending over $3,000,000 to jail and release 91 people for misdemeanors, Half of all charges were dropped

What: Mayoral Candidates Debate on how to eradicate homelessness (Dean confirmed, Clement Opts Out)
When: 11am, Monday, August 20th, 2007
Where: Loaves and Fishes Program, Holy Name Church
(Enter at Main Street parking lot between 5th & 6th in East Nashville)

The Nashville Homeless Power Project invited both candidates to attend the Mayoral Candidates Debate for August 20th on Monday, August 6th. Both campaign offices indicated that their candidate had nothing scheduled at 11am on August 20th and said they would confirm as soon as possible. Dean's office confirmed the next day and on August 14th Clement's office called to decline the offer. Nonetheless, the forum will continue with the same questions as planned but with only one candidate publicly available to respond to the questions.

On the June 13th, 2007 the Metro Police launched the Quality of Life Initiative. It involves undercover officers downtown and along the West End corridor targeting individuals identified as panhandling (not illegal), trespassing, vagrancy, public intoxication and other activities typical of low-income individuals and homeless people struggling to survive as well as many non-homeless Titans fans J. Data shows that officers have arrested 91 unique homeless persons 113 times while working the initiative through Friday, Aug. 3. In their history in Davidson County, these 91 individuals have been arrested 4,397 times on 6,860 charges, and spent a total of 21,339 days in jail since March of 2000. Using a jail cost estimate of $55/day, this adds up to $1.2 million (which is only the Sheriff's portion of the expense). When reviewing the 4,397 arrests, 2,117 resulted in a conviction.

The Nashville Homeless Power Project, has factored in minimal costs of the Metro Police and Criminal Justice System, this means that Nashville government is spending a minimum estimate for these 91 individuals of at least $3 millions dollars. John Zirker, president shares, "We think that not only homeless people but all Nashvillians will be interested to know if this is how the next Mayor will spend our tax dollars." NHPP also notes that if 2,117 of the 4,397 arrest resulted in conviction that more than half of those arrested were found innocent and/or had charges dropped. It should also be noted that often times when someone does not "cop a plea" and declares innocence, this will necessitate 1 - 20 days in jail while this person waits for a court date and have the charges dismissed or found innocent.

The Nashville Homeless Power Project asked for $2.3 Million in city dollars for low-cost housing. Only $800,000 was approved. Imagine if the City redirected the $3,000,000 from the revolving door of misdemeanor charges and housed not just these 91 individuals but another 109. Wouldn't we all be better off.

We look forward to the responses on this question and several others from the candidates for Mayor.