Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hard to love

   Being compassionate is sometimes not easy, but is it ever just too hard? Following is one of my latest Claremont Courier columns, published on August 2,


  Oh-oh. Here he comes!
   And right when I was really settling down into summer, when I was relaxing into the sprawl of the laziest, care-free days of July and early August. Right when I was getting ready to go on a nice vacation.
    It was the week after the Fourth of July, with summer sinking into its long afternoon snooze, and there was a little article on the bottom of the page in the Los Angeles Times about a serial rapist being released from a mental hospital. Something was familiar, and I read the first two or three paragraphs - and, sure enough, Claremont was in the article. This was the man from Claremont.
   Or he was living with his parents in Claremont. His name is Christopher Hubbart, and I remember him being called the “pillowcase rapist,” having admittedly raped more than 40 women around the state and having been in and out of prison over 20 years, and I remember there being protests outside his parents’ house. This was something like 20 years ago. Actually, according to an article in these pages that I read after I returned from my trip, the Claremont protests were in 1994.
   I also remember that, at the time, there was a controversial new policy that people who committed crimes because of mental illness or a psychological condition were to be kept in a prison hospital after serving their prison time until it was deemed that the mental illness or psychological condition was remedied or under control. To the relief of all, Mr. Hubbart, described by a state official as “uncontrollably compulsive,” was a candidate for this policy and was sent away to a prison hospital. Out of sight, out of mind.
   Until now. The story in the Times was about county prosecutors and legislators fighting a ruling in May by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Gilbert T. Brown that Mr. Hubbart, having passed a psychological examination after repeated failed attempts, be freed in Los Angeles County under the condition that he be heavily supervised and continue getting treatment. In his ruling, Judge Brown stated that Mr. Hubbart, who is now 62, “would not be a danger to others due to his diagnosed mental disorder while under supervision [of a parole office] and treatment in the community.”
   According to this and subsequent articles in the Times as well as the one in the July 12 COURIER, L.A County prosecutors, supported by officials like Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, filed an injunction to keep Mr. Hubbart from being released in this county, instead proposing that he be freed in Santa Clara County, the site of his last crime. That is, if he can’t be kept behind bars.
   This request was denied, as I read in the Times a day or and two after I returned (and later in these pages). But the article also pointed out that it will take up to a year to find “appropriate housing” for Mr. Hubbart.
   It was furthermore noted in the July 12 COURIER article by Beth Hartnett that Mr. Hubbart no longer has ties to Claremont, that his parents are deceased and the family’s house has been sold.
   I’m wondering if any of this is enough. Yes, we may have another year not to worry about Mr. Hubbart, but, after this, he will be living not too far from or near or very near to us. What then?
   I’m wondering if it will be enough that Mr. Hubbart will be under heavy surveillance, that he will be wearing an electronic monitor, that he will continue to receive therapy. And as Claremont City Manager Tony Ramos has said, “We are aware of it, our chief of police is aware of it. We are keeping an eye on the situation.”
   I’m wondering if, even though, yes, he was arrested and rearrested numerous times and, yes, repeatedly failed psychological tests, it is enough that doctors and mental illness experts and subsequently a judge have deemed that Mr. Hubbart now will “not be a danger to others,” and all the more so with this heavy supervision.
   There is also the fact that Mr. Hubart is clearly well aware of his condition and that it is, to say the least, a problem. In 1994, just 8 hours after being released from prison and as noted by parole officers, “he reported feeling that he was losing control of himself.”
   Is any of this enough? I wonder. Is there room, is there a place in Claremont for someone who so clearly needs help, who so clearly needs compassion - firm compassion, yes, but compassion? Or is he just too dangerous? Is he just too sick and horrible?
   And I’m wondering why it is fair that Mr. Hubbart be freed in Santa Clara County and not in Los Angeles County. Mayor Opanyi Nasiali pointed out that Claremont is a college town. True, and very much something to think about, but aren’t there colleges in Santa Clara County?
   Then there’s the argument that it is much cheaper, saving taxpayers’ money, to house someone like Mr. Hubbart in the community, even with much monitoring, than keeping him in prison.
   I’m wondering if any of this matters, or is there no room for someone like Mr. Hubbart in Claremont? What about for another sexual offender who has completed a prison sentence, for homeless people and the services they need, for group homes for foster kids and the developmentally disabled? Or for a Trayvon Martin?
   The news and questions are difficult and don’t lay out by the summer pool so well. And they certainly don’t go off on vacation.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A bit of a break

I've been away and am having difficulty with formatting - keep getting "error on page" in the post field. Can someone familiar with Blogger advise me, please?