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Questions and Answers
Directions for Corrections Town Forum
"Reentry: Building a Future"
June 18, 2014

On June 18th, 2014, Sheriff Steven W. Tompkins hosted his Town Forum series “Directions for Corrections” to address the topic of reentry. Joining him on the panel were Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson, Pastor William Dickerson, Project Place Executive Director Suzanne Kenney, STRIVE Executive Director Charmane Higgins, and President and CEO of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts Darnell Williams. Though the forum ended before panelists could answer the backlog of audience question cards, Sheriff Tompkins’ pledged to have all questions answered and posted on the Department’s website. The following is the fulfilment of that pledge:

 

Q. What are you doing about the reentry for women? What about the jobs for the men as well as for women coming home?

Q. What will happen to the ones who come home to no home?

Q. Can you please talk and speak to Project Place’s success in job placement?

Q. There are several individuals who have been incarcerated several times. Is there hope for housing and employment? Who can you speak to?

Q. I’m interested in learning about mental health services and how to access them.

Q. The City of Springfield and Hampden County Sheriff Department started their re-entry program over ten years ago. Why did it take so long for the re-entry program to start in Suffolk County?

Q. How will this panel engage business leaders to employ those who are reentering society?

Q. To all panelists Today the House voted on H4184 bill that was relative to juvenile life sentences. When we consider the pipeline to prison and the impact of trauma, poverty, socio–economics status on youth, what are your thoughts on this bill? Should there be provisions for youth regarding life sentences?

Q. It is my understanding that there was once a D.A.R.E. or “SAY NO to Drugs” program that was once quite active in Suffolk County. Could such a program(s) be restarted in Suffolk County to teach youth about the dangers of drugs and alcohol?

Q. Is reentry sending folks back into the community vulnerable, unprepared for working, reoffend and go back into prison reentry?




Q. What are you doing about the reentry for women? What about the jobs for the men as well as for women coming home?
A. Answered by Panelist Charmane Higgins
At STRIVE, we offer returning citizens, male and female, a 5–week professional development program that helps to prepare them to return to the workforce in many ways. Some of those ways are to help them learn what is the proper attitude and work ethic needed in the workplace; provide them with basic computer skills; teach them how to write a resume that addresses some of the gaps in their employment history; and conduct mock job interviews with them so that they are prepared for a real job interview.

After completing of our 5–week program, the men and women graduates of our program work with our senior placement specialist to find full–time employment. Last year, out of the 292 people that we helped to gain employment, 132 or 45% were returning citizens.

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Q. What will happen to the ones who come home to no home?
A. Answered by Panelist Reverend Dickerson
Many returning citizens return home to no home due to the lack of housing. There are a few sober homes. Currently the mayor of Boston, along with a few clergy, are looking into developing vacant lots which will take time and great commitment, but it can done. Also in a few churches rooms of church members in their homes have been provided too.

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Q. Can you please talk and speak to Project Place’s success in job placement?
A. Answered by Panelist Suzanne Kenney
We have a fairly high job placement rate. I think the men and women who walk through our doors are very motivated. Last year the rate was 68%. We do try and shoot for over 60% and all of our folks have challenges. 80% are returning citizens and then some of them experience homelessness. But the one thing they all have one thing in common, is that they’re coming for help. But we start the relationship inside, even when they’re at the House of Corrections, and then we follow up with them when they’re out.

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Q. There are several individuals who have been incarcerated several times. Is there hope for housing and employment? Who can you speak to?
A. Answered by Panelist Suzanne Kenney
Sure. As part of our comprehensive case management approach, housing is a critical need that is addressed by every case manager at the agency regardless of the challenges an individual may face. There is hope! We have a 60% housing placement rate for returning citizens.

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Q. I’m interested in learning about mental health services and how to access them.
A. Answered by Panelist Suzanne Kenney
Project Place partners with South End Community Health Center for mental health services. Should someone want to access services for mental health (which is a strong component in our program, POWR - Partnerships to Opportunities for Women in Reentry) their individual case manager will make the necessary referral.

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Q. The City of Springfield and Hampden County Sheriff Department started their re–entry program over ten years ago. Why did it take so long for the re–entry program to start in Suffolk County?
A. Answered by True-See Allah, SCSD
Actually, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department started its Reentry program, the Boston Reentry Initiative, over ten years ago. The Boston Reentry Initiative (BRI) was founded in 2000 in response to a 13% spike in violent crime. The Boston Police Department and Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department developed BRI in partnership with other law enforcement agencies, social service providers, and faith–based organizations to focus its re–entry resources on offenders who posed the greatest risk of committing violent crimes upon their release into Boston’s most violent neighborhoods. The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department offers a wide array of reentry services including Mental and Physical health care, Substance abuse treatment, Vocational education (the Common Ground Institute, a skills–based vocational certificate program), Industry– Specific courses, Job readiness , Education, tutoring, and GED Prep, Parenting classes and child support set–up, and religious services.

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Q. How will this panel engage business leaders to employ those who are reentering society?
A. Answered by Alan Spencer, SCSD
This panel consisted of a cross section of City Government, Faith Based Organizations (FBO’S) and Community Based Organizations (CBO’s). All of the organizations represented by the panel have the assets and ability to outreach to the business and private sectors employers necessary. Reentry employment is and has to be a collaborative effort. No single agency or organization will be able to bring to bear the extensive resources needed to address this issue without developing cross–sector partnerships. This panel will accomplish the task through a collaborative relationship with each other and through a collaborative relationship with prospective employer partnerships.

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Q. To all panelists Today the House voted on H4184 bill that was relative to juvenile life sentences. When we consider the pipeline to prison and the impact of trauma, poverty, socio–economics status on youth, what are your thoughts on this bill? Should there be provisions for youth regarding life sentences?
A. Suzanne Kenney
A young life sentenced to life is a tragedy and means that our society failed in providing the safety nets and opportunities for that young person. Cognitively people’s brains (frontal lobes) do not even develop fully develop till 25. I believe there should be provisions for youth regarding life sentences – alternatives to incarceration can be residential programming that is very structured including education and job skills, and be an environment that promotes social and emotional learning where actions receive consequences but there is room to grow and learn. Empathy can be taught through relational work. Providing alternatives to jail through such a structured program is cheaper for society as well.
A. Charmane Higgins
I believe that this bill is a step in the right direction in order to address some of the extremely harsh penalties that are imposed on juveniles who receive life sentences but I think more needs to be done. There are two areas that I think also need attention. The first area is to provide treatment, programming, and life–skills training for juvenile offenders while they are incarcerated in order to prepare them to return to society. The second area that I believe that also needs to be addressed are the factors that are mentioned, such as poverty and trauma, which can create a sense of hopelessness that can lead to criminal behavior.
A. Reverend Dickerson
Yes there should be provisions for juvenile life sentences for various reasons.

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Q. It is my understanding that there was once a D.A.R.E. or “SAY NO to Drugs” program that was once quite active in Suffolk County. Could such a program(s) be restarted in Suffolk County to teach youth about the dangers of drugs and alcohol?
A. Zakiyyah Sutton, SCSD
The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department actually has such a program, called the CHOICE program, which has been in place since 2005. Through the CHOICE program, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department Officers visit schools throughout Boston, Chelsea, Winthrop and Revere and discuss a number of topics with students, including peer pressure, making the right choices, setting goals, self–respect, a civics component and the effects of CORI. For more information about this program, please click here.

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Q. Is reentry sending folks back into the community vulnerable, unprepared for working, reoffend and go back into prison reentry?
A. Zakiyyah Sutton, SCSD
The purpose of reentry is actually to aid returning citizens in their transition back into society so that they are less likely to reoffend and are provided some of the basic tools they need to lead productive lives.

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