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CONTACT: Peter Van Delft
SHERIFF CABRAL HOSTS LEGISLATIVE BREAKFAST
Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea J. Cabral recently hosted a group of elected officials at the Suffolk County House of Correction for a Legislative Breakfast with the goal of strengthening the connection between the Department and the Massachusetts legislative body.
In attendance was newly elected Senator of the 2nd Suffolk District Sonia Chang–Diaz; State Reps. Marie St. Fleur, Liz Malia, Gloria Fox, and Willie Mae Allen; and representatives from the offices of Senators Jack Hart and Anthony Galluccio, and new House Speaker Rep. Robert DeLeo.
Addressing a variety of topics, including public safety, inmate programming, the economic climate, and some of the difficulties faced by the Department in meeting the challenges of a population with a disproportionate need for physical and mental health services, Sheriff Cabral shared with the assembly the urgent nature of forging a greater collaboration on legislation as it relates to Department operations and funding.
“The last two fiscal years have been extremely challenging,” said Sheriff Cabral. “There is no fat in our budget and we have a very significant deficit. This is one of largest sheriff’s departments in the country. I don’t think you can find a sheriff’s department of similar size that accomplishes so much with so little.”
While recognizing the fact that most state and city agencies in the Commonwealth are facing similar hardship under the current economic conditions, Sheriff Cabral warned about the potentially wide–ranging consequences that might occur with respect to public safety under such circumstances.
The numbers of inmates and pre–trial detainees committed to the Department’s custody continue to increase. Each year, approximately 3,500 inmates are either paroled or complete their sentences from the Suffolk County House of Correction. Ninety–five percent of those ex-offenders will be re–entering the various communities of Suffolk County. Among many other concerns, protracted underfunding cuts deeply into the skills–based, educational, and mental and physical health care services that make the difference in whether inmates will re–enter the neighborhoods with the means to be productive.
“One need not be a direct victim of crime to be affected by it. The choices ex–offenders make after they are released have an enormous economic impact on this County,” Sheriff Cabral said. “The commission of a single nonviolent property crime costs the state hundreds of thousands of dollars. Conversely, the offenders we have trained and placed in jobs have thus far saved the taxpayers over $2 million dollars”
Representative Fox concurred.
“People may see this as a city problem that doesn’t affect them, so supporting the Sheriff’s Department is not their problem.” Rep. Fox said. “But this affects everyone all over the state.”
Though acknowledging the efforts made by members of the Boston delegation of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate, Representatives Malia and St. Fleur agreed that more could be done to ensure that the proper resources be provided to support the Department’s commitment to public safety.
“If the goal is the successful reintegration of ex–offenders into our communities, then the Legislature is not as coordinated as it should be,” said Rep. Malia. “Where is the State’s responsibility in this?”
“I think more of a dialogue needs to be had about this with our colleagues,” Rep. St. Fleur added. “There has to be more support given to our county sheriffs.”