FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Peter Van Delft
SUFFOLK COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT TEAMS–UP WITH PAULIST CENTER FOR VOTER REGISTRATION, ABSENTEE BALLOT DRIVE
Detainees housed at the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department’s Nashua Street Jail and House of Correction recently participated in a non–partisan voter registration and absentee ballot drive, courtesy of a collaborative effort between the Department and the Paulist Center in Boston.
Founded in 1945, the mission of the Paulist Center’s ministries is, according to their doctrine, “strongly centered in social justice, music and many other groups which draw on the talents of both the ordained and lay ministers.” Paulist Center literature states that members are also, “Attentive to the Holy Spirit and nourished by vibrant liturgy and a Catholic community that welcomes all, fosters healing and reconciliation, and acts for justice. We welcome all and embrace people of diverse backgrounds and traditions as well as those who feel disenfranchised by society and Church.
To help facilitate the drive, Sheriff Andrea J. Cabral authorized members of the Nashua Street Jail (NSJ) and Suffolk County House of Correction (HOC) staff to accompany four volunteers into several detainee housing units where they distributed instructional materials and assisted participating detainees with the registration and absentee ballot process.
“It’s important that they get to express their right to vote and that they feel invested in their government and their country,” Sheriff Cabral said about the detainees involved in the drive. “Exercising your right to vote is one of the most fundamental rights that you have as a citizen of the United States, and denying that right to detainees can have the effect of further alienating them from their responsibilities as citizens once they return to the community. In fact, it’s become more difficult for many people on the outside with the voter suppression movement that is occurring around the country, which is actually antithetical to democracy.”
As a representative of both the Paulist Center and the organization CURE (Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants), which advocates that “people in jail or prison should have the resources they need to turn their lives around,” Lois Fishbeck explained that it was her sense of responsibility to the disenfranchised that drew her and three of her fellow advocates to contact the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department about holding a voter registration and absentee ballot drive for detainees in the two facilities.
“I believe that we have to have respect for the dignity and worth of each individual,” said Fishbeck. “Each person matters and everyone has value. With respect to detainees, they are almost all there in jail because they don’t have the money to post bond. For me, voting is a basic human right – a universal declaration of human rights – and detainees are innocent until proven guilty.”
Ultimately, a total of 177 absentee ballots were cast and 139 voter registrations were completed during the drive.
Citing the success of the event, Fishbeck offered praise and appreciation to the Department for its efforts to make the drive possible.
“Working with the Sheriff’s Department was really an extraordinary experience and so positive,” Fishbeck said, following her group’s visit. “Both the Nashua Street Jail and the House of Correction are outstandingly well–run and we were met with a positive attitude from everyone we interacted with from the beginning, when we first made contact, to the end of the registration drive. Everyone was really helpful and they made sure that we were safe and able to do our job quickly and efficiently. It wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t a well–run organization.”