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CONTACT: Steve Tompkins
BOSTON RE-ENTRY INITIATIVE HITS MILESTONE WITH FIFTIETH PANEL
Boston — The Boston Re-Entry Initiative (BRI) reached a milestone Wednesday December 14, when its fiftieth panel commenced, bringing together members from law enforcement agencies, religious groups, job placement agencies, and community organizations. The beginning of a fiftieth panel marked the success of the program, currently in its fifth year.
BRI is a collaborative effort of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, the Boston Police Department’s Youth Violence Strike Force, area parole and probation boards, and many community and social service organizations, with the goal of reducing the rate of recidivism among a population of offenders at the South Bay House of Correction who are considered “high risk.” These men have been involved in violent crimes, gang activity, or have been incarcerated for weapons or drug charges. They are considered 100% likely to commit further crimes, with increasing violence, upon release.
These “high risk” offenders are placed in the Boston Re-Entry Initiative and attend a panel meeting within forty-five days of their incarceration. A new panel meets every month. Following the panel, inmates are assigned a caseworker and mentor to begin work on a transitional accountability plan. Often, the mentors are ex-offenders who can relate with the inmates and illustrate that they cycle of crime can be broken.
“BRI represents an unprecedented level of cooperation between law enforcement agencies and their communities,” said Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea J. Cabral. “When people are given help or told that someone cares, that resonates with them, and if we can stop even one crime, stop one person from being victimized, then it’s been a success.”
Superintendent Paul Joyce, of the Boston Police Department, agreed. “The strength of what we do is in the partnerships between law enforcement, the community, and the offenders.”
During the panel meeting, participants introduced themselves to the offenders and explained why their organization is involved in the program. The December panel included Kevin Hayden from the Suffolk District Attorney’s Office, Steven Peevy from the Ella J. Baker House, Damon Hamilton from Bruce Wall Ministries, Chris Womack from the Ten Point Coalition, True See Allah from the Nation of Islam and the South End Neighborhood Action Program (SNAP), Ned Powers from Community Resources for Justice (CRJ), United States Attorney Glenn Mackinlay, and Christian Mitchell and Kimberly Pellantreau from Youth Opportunity Boston (YOB). Most panel members described how their organizations help ex-offenders find housing, jobs, and social programs upon release, while attorneys Kevin Hayden and Glenn Mackinlay warned the offenders of the harsher sentences they could face if they are arrested after their release.
“I’ve only seen positive things come out of BRI,” Ned Powers told the offenders, “But what you do when you transition into the street is ultimately up to you.”
Thus far, BRI has been a success. Of the 276 inmates who participated and were released between 2003 and 2005, 118 (43%) have not been re-arrested. Approximately 40% of those men who were re-arrested were not charged with violent crimes.
The program gives participants a chance to turn their lives around and raises the quality of life for citizens of Suffolk County. Most of the “high risk” offenders will return to neighborhoods within five miles of the House of Correction when they are released and have the potential to jeopardize their communities’ safety if they resume their violent criminal behaviors. The success of BRI gives hope to neighborhoods plagued with violence and leaves panel members with a sense of accomplishment. Said Kevin Hayden, “I love coming here every month and seeing what [BRI] means to these guys. I just hope we can continue to do good work.”