Councilors go to jail to hear ideas on reducing recidivism

Some 100 people went to jail yesterday to learn how to keep inmates from returning there once they get out.

In a Boston City Council first, a committee convened a hearing behind bars, as a special panel focused on the status of black and Latino men and boys met last night at the South Bay House of Correction. The hearing was the brainchild of the committee chairman, City Councilor Tito Jackson of Roxbury, and Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins.

Tompkins said prior to the hearing that he wanted to “shine a light” on the idea that policies at the county facility need to be looked at “through a social work lens, not an incarceration lens.”  Paraphrasing a famous Hubert Humphrey quote, he said: “The hallmark of a society is how it takes care of those most compromised.”

Tompkins told the crowd gathered at South Bay that 70 percent of the 1,550 inmates there had substance abuse issues, and 42 percent suffer from some form of mental illness. Nearly half of all of those released will return to jail within six months, he said. The key to reducing that figure is providing enough assistance for inmates to get on a productive path once released.

Six inmates at the House of Correction, three men and three women, shared their stories, recounting addiction relapses, bad decisions made to support children, and poor judgment with a law-breaking son that one female inmate said led her to take the rap for his crimes.

Several councilors in attendance sought to point out that these weren’t issues distant to their lives. City Councilor Frank Baker said he has spent time at South Bay, “not as a customer,” but visiting family and friends who were incarcerated. City Councilor Mark Ciommo said his family has also “been touched by incarceration.” City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who had a scheduling conflict and wasn’t there, submitted a letter saying she knows the toll incarceration takes on families, since her father was in and out of prison most of his life.

Most inmates read and do math at a 5th or 6th grade level, said Tompkins, illustrating the huge skills deficit they face in any job search on top of the barriers posed by carrying a criminal record.

The first 48-72 hours after an inmate is released is a critical period, Tompkins said. If they can’t connect in that time with employment services and find stable housing and mental health services, if needed, “they’re coming back,” said Tompkins.

The turnout for the hearing — and testimony from a range of officials, from Boston school department leaders to a Boston police superintendent and the leader of Mayor Marty Walsh’s public safety initiative — made clear that Suffolk County has the benefit of a lot of people rowing together with the same goal of reducing recidivism.

What was also clear is that there are no shortcuts or easy paths to success.

MICHAEL JONAS

 

BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker says the state is at an energy crossroads, but his preferred path ahead seems to differ from the one favored by environmentalists and their backers on Beacon Hill. (CommonWealth)

A pilot system at the Wilmington branch of the state Registry of Motor Vehicles is dramatically cutting wait-times for those conducting more simple transactions. (Boston Herald)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A Herald editorial says more questions need to be addressed about the planned Boston Grand Prix car race through the city streets, including what steps are in place to guarantee repayment to the city of any expenses it incurs to host the race.

CASINOS

Just when it seemed Boston Mayor Marty Walsh might be looking to cut any losses and negotiate over mitigation matters with Wynn Resorts, the city has filed a new lawsuit challenging a recent environmental certificate granted to the casino developer. (Boston Globe) Former state transportation secretary Fred Salvucci, in an opinion piece for the Globe, says the granting of the certificate made a mockery of the state’s environmental laws.

A Springfield city councillor’s ballot question, which would have asked voters to weigh in on MGM Springfield’s proposed hotel height change, misses the submission deadline by 60 minutes. (MassLive)

DRUGS

A 29-year-old woman in Andover overdosed on heroin and was revived by a friend who had a dose of Narcan handy. (Eagle-Tribune)

A Sun editorial heaps praise on Sen. Jennifer Flanagan of Leominster and her legislative efforts to fight opioid addiction.

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

A top fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington resigns after being called out by US Sen. Elizabeth Warren on a conflict of interest. (Boston.com)

Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses because of her opposition to same-sex marriages, secretly met with Pope Francis during his visit to Washington DC, last week, according to her lawyer. (New York Times)

Ted Kennedy was angry at the way the Clinton White House botched its attempt at health care reform in the 1990s, according to transcripts being released from an extensive oral history interview he did in 2008 with the University of Virginia. (Boston Globe) The transcripts, part of 170 interviews done with Kennedy and his colleagues for an oral history, also include gems such as this one: When the newly elected Kennedy was seeking committee assignments, then-Sen. James Eastland of Mississippi, an infamous racist and segregationist, made him down three stiff shots of scotch at 10 in the morning in order to get his preference. (New York Times)

Dave Yost, the state auditor in Ohio, plans to publicize when officials abuse their power, even if what they did wasn’t illegal. (Governing)

ELECTIONS

Scot Lehigh calls the idea that the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s handling of emails should be a major issue in the presidential campaign “silliness on stilts.” (Boston Globe)

Both Weymouth Mayor Sue Kay and her challenger, state Sen. Robert Hedlund, are taking credit for jumpstarting the stalled Southfield mixed-use development at the former naval air base. (Patriot Ledger)

Joe Biden’s frenetic schedule lends evidence to a possible presidential run. (Wall Street Journal)

Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett found no evidence of wrongdoing in the gathering of signatures for a Saugus selectmen recall election. (The Item)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Some local fishermen are concerned about a proposal that would give the president the power to establish a National Marine Monument in waters off the coast of New England, a move that could cut off rich fishing grounds. (GateHouse Media)

Westborough-based eClinicalWorks, an electronic medical records company, plans to add 1,000 jobs over the next three years. (Boston Globe)

Amazon is on the prowl for a really big space in metro Boston. (Boston Business Journal)

Massachusetts home sales hit their highest point over the summer in 10 years. (Boston Globe)

Boston 2024 closed the books on its ill-fated Olympic effort, with some of the organization’s largest creditors agreeing to significantly reduced repayments, the Globe reports.

EDUCATION

Swampscott High School calls in the police and cancels football games scheduled for this weekend amid reports of a hazing incident. (Salem News)

A survey finds teachers in Worcester believe too much time is devoted to testing students. (Telegram & Gazette)

A survey by Gallup and Purdue University finds black college graduates have a higher student loan debt burden than whites, with the percentage of blacks owing $25,000 or more, significantly higher than whites or Hispanics. (U.S. News & World Report)

The Springfield Republican/MassLive profiles one of the nine principals working on turning around a failing middle school in Springfield.

A new teacher’s contract in Pittsfield could serve as a model for other districts. (Berkshire Eagle)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

A Cambridge biotech company is receiving a $29 million grant from the federal government — funding that could eventually be increased to more than $200 million — to develop a new antiviral drug to treat the flu. (Boston Herald)

Officials are concerned that the Asian tiger mosquito, which carries dengue fever and, unlike other mosquitoes, prefers the taste of humans to animals, could be taking up permanent residence in the New Bedford area. (Standard-Times)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Hanover‘s wind turbine has been operating without interruption for more than six weeks, indicating the myriad of problems may finally be behind it. (Patriot Ledger)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A new MassINC research report finds that blacks and Latinos are overrepresented in the population of facing pretrial detention in the state and those granted bail must pay substantially more, on average, than white detainees. (Boston Globe)

MEDIA

Dan Kennedy takes a look at the new Worcester Sun, which is taking an unorthodox path by using its subscriber-based digital site as a launching pad for a Sunday print edition. (Nieman Journalism Lab)

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch uses an outside service called Opinion in a Pinch to freelance editorials for the paper. (Romenesko)