FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 8, 2014
CONTACT: Peter Van Delft
Suffolk County Sheriff Steven W. Tompkins recently spoke at the “Conference on Mass Incarceration in the United States Prison System,” a gathering hosted by the Center for Church and Prison, Inc. with the goal of examining criminal justice reform and reducing the number of people incarcerated in the United States.
Held at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Roxbury and led by Reverend George Walters–Sleyon — Founder of the Center for Church and Prison, Inc. — the night also featured addresses by Gubernatorial Candidate and United Independent Party Founder Evan Falchuk, Reverend Ellis Washington of St. Paul AME Church in Cambridge, and keynote speaker Pastor Clenard Childress of New Jersey.
A three–day event featuring other notable speakers including: City Councilors Charles Yancey and Ayanna Pressley; Dr. Beverly Sealy, Professor at Simmons College; Chief Magistrate, Judge Joyce London–Alexander and others, the conference focused on the theme of “Proactive Engagement Towards Criminal Justice Reform” and the role that religion and the faith community can play in it along with other organizations.
Speaking about some of the initiatives and programming offered by the Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Tompkins implored conference attendees to stand together to support one another’s efforts to prevent those at risk from offending and to help stem the tide of recidivism for those already in the system.
“All of us here today have an obligation to work to keep people out of the criminal justice system,” said Sheriff Tompkins. “And, for those who are already in the system or may end up in the system, we need to encourage them to better themselves so that they can come back out as productive citizens. I ask you, are we not all our brothers and sisters keepers?”
“It costs $46,000 to incarcerate a single person per year,” Sheriff Tompkins continued. “Wouldn’t it be better if we used that $46,000 to educate instead of incarcerate? In my administration, we are focused on education – both academic and vocational – because we want people to leave our facilities better than they were when they came in with the ability to take care of themselves and their families.”
Speaking about the mistaken notion by some that jail time for people of color is either a rite of passage or an expectation of something inevitable, Sheriff Tompkins offered a forceful rebuke.
“We have young people who somehow believe that jail is a rite of passage,” said Sheriff Tompkins. “They’re wrong. Jail should never be an option. It’s not acceptable and it is not something that we should ever consider to be ‘normal.’ Our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, aunts, uncles and cousins should be caring for their families, and our children should be playing in the park with mom and dad, not visiting one of them in a box that’s seven by ten feet wide in one of our facilities. It is not normal, it is not acceptable and the only way we can change it is if we rise up collectively and say, ‘we cannot have this. We will not have this.’”