One of the things that makes America great is that fact we are a nation that believes in second chances. Consequently, there are countless individuals who have made mistakes, payed the price for those choices, and have moved on take make meaningful contributions within society.
Demetrus Coonrod was duly elected to the City Council. During her campaign she was forthright about some of her past decisions. From this point on the responsibility and Christian thing to do is not "drag her name through the mud" on past events but rather to work her and her colleagues to improve the lives of all Chattanoogans.
Eventually, she should be evaluated, but on how she performs as a member of the Chattanooga City Council. This is the ethically and morally correct thing to do.
Rev. Dr Jeffrey T. Wilson
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Society claims to want to rehabilitate convicts. It instead seems to try to place roadblocks in their way.
Ms. Coonrod has turned her life around. There is no one in government who better understands the conditions fostering violence in our city.
The Chattanoogan should be supporting her rather than trying to drag her down. Let us hope that the City Council, including Ms. Coonrod, can make changes that will reduce the unacceptable level of violence in our city.
John L. Odom
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Wow! I must have been asleep at the wheel when the news broke about Ms. Coonrod's police record. One would think her opponent would have been screaming about her record loud enough to wake the dead. Just like Romney, I'm sure he now wishes he had been more vocal in the negatives regarding his opponent.
I did learn one thing though that's important to everyone, a felon can get their voting rights back regardless of their track record.
One thing I do think, Ms. Coonrod is abundantly qualified to deal with the gang problems in her district, I'm just not sure which way that wind blows.
Good luck Chattanooga, first Berke and now this, hold your head high, I have a feeling it's gonna be a record year of "I told ya so's".
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I am appalled at the audacity of whomever decided to send their dossier on Ms. Coonrod to this publication in the wake of her overwhelming victory in the City Council District 9 runoff. Not once did Ms. Coonrod shy away from talking about her history, she never mislead anyone, and she never lied. The voters didn’t care about her past - she made it to the run off, and she earned 60 percent of the vote to win the election. What is the actual point of shaming her now?
Last night, as I watched the returns come in, I was proud to live in a district that elected a black woman, single parent, and fully restored felon to represent one of the more economically disadvantaged districts in Chattanooga - a district where gun violence, poverty, and lack of economic development are the norm for several neighborhoods.
Ms. Coonrod’s personal experiences give her more insight into these realities than any other member of Chattanooga’s City Council. She will be a voice for those rarely heard in government and considered in policy creation. And not only did we make history by electing a representative from one of the most marginalized communities in the country; we elected a strong, intelligent, compassionate, hard-working, dedicated woman to a position that rarely sees a female candidate.
Ms. Coonrod is a community activist, an advocate for public education and access to early childhood education. She makes sacrifices to care for her children. She cares about the things the people of District 9 care about. She worries about her neighbors and is committed to improving their lives. She is a human being and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.
I’ve never seen anyone work as hard with as little as Ms. Coonrod did during her campaign. She canvassed countless doors and made many more phone calls, all while working full-time and caring for a young child. I’m impressed with her strength and fortitude, and inspired by her ability to overcome hardship. I am looking forward to watching her work for the people of our district as Councilwoman. She earned every vote she got, and she deserves our collective support.
Chair, Hamilton County Democratic Party
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I read with disgust the political hit-job on Ms. Coonrod that apparently passes for journalism at the Chattanoogan. This piece has no valid purpose other than to attempt character assassination against Ms. Coonrod who won a seat on the City Council. It is arguable that it would never be valid journalism, but given that it was published the day after she won fair and square, belies its purpose of pure dirty, hateful politics.
Ms. Coonrod, like any other person on the planet, is not perfect, but she has paid for her mistakes in a system we have set up collectively to handle her crimes. Society has been "made whole." Ms. Coonrod has done something many people unfortunately don't, she has risen up and overcome her past. And more importantly, she has approached the community optimistically, willing to share her talents to make the community better for all.
The community, including the Chattanoogan, should hold her forth as an example of how people can be rehabilitated and give back to the community. And we should be encouraging to her and others who work hard to put their pasts behind them and contribute to society. Our country decided that people who go through the criminal justice system should come out on the other side and be restored to community life. These are our American values. It is anti-American to tear someone down in the way this paper has chosen to attempt to tear down Ms. Coonrod.
I hope Ms. Coonrod knows that the Chattanoogan does not speak for all people and that most people in the community are better than is portrayed by this paper.
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After reading the news account about Demetrus Coonrod, I was wondering what the intent was here. If the article was to inform the voters in her district, it came too late. If the article was meant to indicate the success of the implemented re-entry programs, and the millions of dollars spent on these programs, then the article may have succeeded.
We need to think about this for a moment. The voters of District 9 ousted incumbent Yusuf Hakeem for Ms. Coonrod. What message does this send?
One can only hope that Ms. Coonrod leaves her failures and tribulations in her past and proves herself through actions on the City Council by showing that she can work well with her peers (fellow Members of Council) and serves the people and not herself. She has the burden to show how people who make serious mistakes in their life can turn their life around and be successful.
My personal advice to Ms. Coonrod would be to avoid any unethical and unlawful temptations brought before her and remember the various support groups that the FBOP’s introduced to her within our community. She needs to stay strong and vigilant and do what’s right. People believed to be of greater integrity have performed poorly.
Lastly, it bewilders me, as it must with other voters, that nothing was said about Ms. Coonrod’s short comings before the elections. Only after Yusuf Hakeem lost his seat did anyone believe this was important.
This is the year of whining losers and there isn’t much credibility with them as well.
Don T.D. Gala, Ph.D.
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Should Demetrus Conrod continue to serve? First, yes, it is the will of the voters in District 9. Secondly, section 8.53 of the City Charter gives her or any person who have fully restored their rights that option. Perhaps the main reason is that she is a model of what restorative justice reform can and should strive to achieve. For several years, many individuals and organizations dedicated to criminal justice reform have advocated on the behalf of Restorative Justice as opposed to Retributive Justice. Upon studying the philosophies of old, as a society we have mostly accepted the notion that justice is affixed on a scale and we must seek to find the balance between truth and untruth, equal and unequal, just and unjust, as we seek to find an equilibrium that balances the needs and safety of the greater society as opposed to the fairness of an individual or entity. The organization Restorativejustice.org defines restorative justice as: “a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that allow all willing stakeholders to meet, although other approaches are available when that is impossible. This can lead to transformation of people, relationships and communities.” Restorative justice concerns itself with constitutional rights and societal responsibilities, due process under the law, and proportional sentencing as it helps offenders atone, make amends for crimes committed, grants the victims of crime a voice by stressing the harm that has been caused and that should be repaired, and it affords all the opportunity to participate in the American dream. For too long our system has been based on retributive justice, which is retribution, payback, penalties, and ultra-punitive measures that have given us a criminal justice system that is at times feels beyond breach an incapable of being repaired as the “time fits the crime model” has greatly outweighed any of the progressive elements associated with the true essence of justice.
There is reason to be concerned with elements of criminal justice today because the challenges we face seem insurmountable. We are contending with due process and fair trials; mandatory sentencing laws; disproportionate incarceration rates where seventy-percent of inmates are persons of color; the fastest growing prison demographic are women of color; the more than two-thousand infants that will be born to mothers behind prison walls this year; a rapidly increasing rate of recidivism that suggests most offenders will reenter prison within a year while many fathers son, son and mother’s daughter, daughter enter the never ending vicious cycle. We should also be disturbed about our probation processes in order to ensure that they are effective and productive; many offenders have mental incapacities or are drug offenders, and they need mental health treatment and services in order to become productive citizens. We should be troubled about reentry into society, and push for more attainable job and professional skills as well as assisting those who have reentered society find gainful employment; we should help ex-offenders restore their voting and citizenship rights once they have fully paid their debts to society. Expungement clinics are excellent ways to help aide in this area. Likewise, many of us support the second amendment and the right to bear arms, but on a week where we saw one child accidentally slain and several gun-related killings we should ask are there limits on the accessibility to guns? If not, would not a program of gun safety be practical or should we just accept this as a necessary price to pay for open carry? Nevertheless programs offered should be based on rehabilitation, reentry and redemption, through pushing for things such as Ban the Box and viewing crime and violence as a Public Health Emergency.
There are other areas of the criminal justice system we should be looking at as well. At a time when we recently faced a horrific tragedy at Ooltewah due to bullying and negligence, restorative justice practices can help with school climate and help reduce the school to prison pipeline by dealing with present-traumatic stress as well as assisting with adverse childhood experiences by offering meditation, reflection, guided practice and the need to report out of the ordinary situations and circumstances when they occur. We should be paying attention to the Jocques Clemmons incident in Nashville, and review our own police-public procedures so that we will not become the next Ferguson or Baltimore. This should include studying the merits of civilian review boards. Another judicial vacancy just occurred and it begs to reason when will Chattanooga and Hamilton County have some diversity on the judicial bench? There was also a recent story about the lack of personnel at the public defender’s office, and we should ask is this agency fully able to give citizens the constitutional right to representation and a fair trial? These are just a few areas that can greatly help reduce crime and help many find a sustainable path to societal reentry.
Our goal for ex-offenders should be for them to find rehabilitation, reentry and redemption through balancing the great scales of justice so that there is equilibrium. It does not say that there will not be peaks and valleys in their road to redemption, and sometimes there will be bumps in the road. The goal is to be a productive member of society and do the best you can according to your ability to do so. Jarrett Adams, the co-founder of Life after Justice in New York, is one example of what restorative justice can accomplish. For ten years he served behind the dark prison walls as he persistently pushed to have his wrongful conviction overturned. He would teach himself the law while in prison and file multiple appeals. Finally he caught the attention of the Wisconsin Innocence Project who would finally help him win exoneration. Upon release, he would go on to earn his J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in May 2015 and start a public interest law fellowship with the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, the very court that reversed his conviction because of his trial lawyer’s constitutional deficiencies. Today he works with Life After Justice and the Innocence Project in helping to overturn the wrongful convictions of others. It is not that people are unblemished, flawless and perfect. Also, we all have our setbacks, shortcomings, and thorns of the flesh. We must remember a seed must first be planted in good ground before it can bloom and reach its full potential because after the darkness there must come light, and after the storm there is still hope, and the hope that we must instill in ex-offenders is that there is still reason to hope because the dreams may yet be able to live again, and we must allow the dreams to live on. We should not give in to confirmation biases, attitude polarizations or weapons of mass distraction and take one person at a time as they come. This is the true nature of restorative justice, not to say that wrong has never been committed, but to state that if you are earnest and sincere, you can overcome. Like Jarrett Adams, I believe Demetrus Conrod has overcome and we should let her dream to serve the people live.
Respectfully, Eric Atkins
Chattanooga Criminal Justice Coalition
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It sure is amazing all of these Democrats want to evaluate a politician on their future accomplishments today. I'm sure these same Democrats had the same opinion regarding Trump. Hypocrites.
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So the party that brought us Ward Crutchfield, Billy Long and Duke Franklin now elects a convicted violent criminal who is an admitted racist as a member of City Council? Well their new chairman, a community organizer from Detroit, ran on a platform of making Chattanooga more like Detroit. With the election of Ms Coonrod it appears we are well on the way to looking like Detroit.
Electing someone with a criminal background could be a good idea, after all FDR defended his pick of Joseph Kennedy Sr as SEC commissioner by saying, "it takes a crook to catch a crook." Using that criteria I have some suggestions for our local Democrats for future elections or appointments.
Mayor-Kwame Kilpatrick, former mayor of Detroit, who should fit Khristy Wilkinson's wishes. He was recently convicted of 24 felony offenses from his term as mayor but he will probably be out on parole and available for our 2021 mayor election.
Superintendent of Schools- Barbara Byrd Bennett, former head of both Chicago and Cleveland school systems. She is currently serving a term for steering contracts to her former employer, but like Mr Kilpatrick, will be out on parole by the time our illustrious School Board gets around to doing something.
City Police Chief- well we have our own Billy Long who just served an eight year term for corruption as county sheriff. If we elected him we wouldn't even have to pay his moving expenses.
All joking aside it is pathetic what our local Democrats have become. The party of Marilyn Lloyd, JoAnne Favors, Ralph Kelley, Kirk Walker, the Reverend and Honorable Sam Payne, Kenny Smith and others has become a caricature of itself. Even as a Republican I hope the local Democrats return to some form of respectability.
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This is a remarkable exchange. On the eve of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we have those who accept the failings and the change and we have those who pass judgement. For all of us I pray and I ask, what would Jesus do?
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Mr. Hicks asks what would Jesus do. Might He clear the tables and forcefully throw the money-changers from the temple or, in this case, out of the courthouse?
He was known for being a bit of a wild man, you know, and getting angry about hypocrisy. He was also judgemental toward the unrepentant. We forget about those traits.
If those who behave poorly aren't taken to task for it, how do we ever regain our society? What example do we set for our children when they see those who behave poorly suffer no consequences?
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It's no surprise to me that progressive liberals are vehemently objecting to a news source giving its readers what the late Paul Harvey would say is “the rest of the story.”
You see, it's the rest of the story they often want to hide, especially when it pertains to politics and religion. I saw this as an active journalist and continue to see it now more than ever as a retired journalist who still seeks all the information I can get regarding someone or some thing. “What you don't know,” I have learned over the years, can indeed hurt you.
What would Jesus do concerning the issue with Ms. Coonrod? Shed light on the subject. After all, He is the “light of the world.” Then He would tell Ms. Coonrod to “Go thy way and sin no more” and follow the light. Hopefully, this is what has happened, and the rest of the story will have a happy ending.
As a side note, the nationally broadcast “Chris Plante Show" recently mentioned the Chattanoogan.com expose of Ms. Coonrod's past in discussing corruption and looking the other way by the Democratic Party.