Rural Winters parolee housing proposal causes uproar

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Tensions ran high at the Feb. 17 Solano County Planning Commission meeting where members of the public addressed the commission to express their objections to the prospect of placing a transitional reentry halfway house for parolees on Freedom Lane in rural Winters.

Last month, the Freedom Lane home welcomed its first, and to date only known resident, who according to the Megan’s Law website is a 39-year-old male sex offender convicted in 2018 of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years of age. The website indicates this individual has a slightly “above average risk” to reoffend based on a pre-release Static-99R risk score.

Neighbors and supporters attended the planning commission meeting to voice their opposition to the facility, citing concerns for the safety of children, extended police and fire response times to the rural home and its distance from public services and employment opportunities.

Prior to the planning commission meeting, Solano Assistant County Council Carrie Scarlata responded in an email, “I can share that a number of citizens have raised concerns about a possible new residential facility in the unincorporated area of Solano County near Winters. 

In response to those concerns, the County held a meeting this morning involving representatives from multiple County departments to discuss the issues raised. However, the State has sole authority for licensing community care facilities and the County legally cannot regulate licensed group living arrangements of six or fewer people.“

According to assessor tax records, the 4,991 square foot, five-bedroom, four-bath home located on Freedom Lane, Winters was purchased in December by Jonta L. Davenport for $1,730,000. In the fall of 2021, Davenport also purchased a property in Fairfield on Waterman Boulevard that is operating as a transitional halfway house for parolees.

Davenport, a California licensed associate social worker is the CEO of ELDA, (Every Life Deserves Assistance), a nonprofit public benefit corporation with an Antioch mailing address.

ELDA’s website indicates they operate six reentry homes, primarily in the east bay, and states, “Nonprofits are the heartbeat for criminal justice reform. When reforming our criminal justice system, we must ensure that people with criminal records have access to stable and affordable housing to help them get back on their feet after serving their time.”

Yet, what irks neighbors about the Freedom Lane home is that, by law, when such a facility has been issued a state license, the county does not have regulatory authority over a community care facility serving six or fewer individuals, which is considered a permissible residential use of the property by right.

End of story? Not quite.

Present California law requires parolees released from prison are to be returned to the county of their last legal residence prior to incarceration. Although the City of Winters is situated in Yolo County, areas of rural Winters south of Putah Creek in zip code 95694 are in Solano County.

Davenport spoke with the Express last week to defend and clarify the program. Davenport said “They’ve (parolees) paid their debt to society,” and referring to his home in rural Winters, asked, “If not there, then where?”

According to the Megan’s Law website, the reentry home in Fairfield on Waterman Boulevard is housing three convicted sex offenders whose convictions were for rape of a drugged/intoxicated victim, rape in concert with force or violence, lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years of age and continuous sexual abuse of a child.

“I dislike the crimes,” Davenport said. “I will make sure that people are held accountable coming from our program” and added, that he didn’t release them back into their pre-incarceration communities, “the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation did.”

Davenport said high risk parolees, such as sex offenders, are required to wear GPS monitored ankle bracelets 24 hours a day so their whereabouts are known and are also required to take quarterly polygraph tests.

Since taking ownership of the Winters property, Davenport said he has had a gun put in his face by a neighbor, was called a derogatory name, and the facility’s resident(s) were called “cockroaches.”

The neighbor, Garry Haddon, denies ever going onto Davenport’s property or pointing a gun at him, but said he was carrying a “sidearm and AR” on his rural property when he encountered Davenport.

The incident was reported to the Solano County Sheriff’s Department by Davenport causing deputies to respond and take a report.

On Friday, Davenport told the Express the ELDA board of directors held an emergency meeting and voted not to move forward with plans of opening the Freedom Lane reentry facility. Instead, he said ELDA will redirect their efforts to open an adult aging facility later this year and that the home’s current resident will be leaving soon.

Haddon said he’s now focused on a mission of seeing that laws are changed to prohibit convicted sex offenders from moving into unsupervised group homes.

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