initiates program for former inmates
inmates from the Suffolk County Jail at South Bay will soon receive
help in their transition to the community through a new program
coordinated by the Whittier
Street Health Center in Roxbury.
Post Prison Release Collaborative (WPPRC) will assist released inmates
with housing placement, job training, health care, spiritual counseling
and substance abuse counseling, according to Frederica Williams,
president of Whittier Street. She reached out to other community
groups to form a coalition that will work with prison staff.
The program's goal is
to prevent released inmates from returning to the lifestyle that
led to criminal behavior, and to reduce the rate of repeat criminal
to be a community issue that's addressed by the community,"
and women are sitting in prison learning how to be a
Fennell Sr., founder and chief operating officer of
Tri-Ad Veterans, Inc.
A 1999 Massachusetts
Department of Corrections statewide study showed that 23 percent
of inmates returned to prison in the first year after release. The
overall recidivism rate between 1996 to 1999 was worse - 45 percent.
At the community level,
this pattern of release and incarceration threatens a neighborhood's
its two-decade history
of dedicated urban renewal efforts, is particularly vulnerable because
a segment of its population has seen no alternative to consistent
return to criminal activity.
Roxbury community leaders
complain of increased crime, particularly in the area around the
Dudley bus station. They say that prostitution and drug dealing
have migrated there from the so-called combat zone in the Chinatown
area after city government focused efforts to improve that neighborhood.
executive director of Dudley
Square Main Streets, says vagrants come into Dudley
station every morning, many on the "homeless bus," a shuttle
she says transports shelter residents directly to the station.From
there they fan out to the local neighborhood to drink and panhandle,
according to Stanley.
get out the door and then it's all over"
Robert Shapiro, chaplain at South Bay
became severe enough for community advocates to convince the city
licensing board to change the legal opening time of area liquor
stores from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Civic leaders hope this will be a
first step in reducing the atmosphere that encourages crime.
Loren Roberts of the
Stanley Jones Clean Slate program - a member of the WPPRC coalition
- says the problem lies with "street culture."
A former inmate himself,
Roberts says the lack of post-prison release assistance drives inmates
to return to "poor choices, the wrong environment, peer pressure,
and substance abuse."
Shapiro, a chaplain at South Bay, concurs. "They get out the
door and then it's all over," Shapiro says.
Sr. of the Tri-Ad Veterans League lamented the cycle that brings
inmates from jail to street and back behind bars. "The community
is being a dumping ground. Men and women are sitting in prison learning
how to be a smoother criminal."
Fennell further blames the lack of effective inmate treatment programs
for continuing recidivism. "They just sit around and twiddle
their thumbs and return to the community almost the same as when
they come in," he says.
is a veterans' group concerned with the disparity in health care
among veterans of color. It focuses on the incarcerated population.
Fennell said newly released inmates are handicapped in their efforts
to find work by Criminal Offender Records Information (CORI). CORI
is a state program that makes criminal records readily available
to potential employers, landlords and education administrators.
Offender Record Information (CORI) Unit
is a division of the state Criminal History Systems
regulations allow organizations such as schools, day
care centers, athletic teams and municipal government
agencies to obtain information about an adult individual's
publicly accessible criminal record.
requesting CORI reports can do so on an individual
an organization may apply for a General Grant, which
allows access to multiple simultaneous records once
a set of guidelines is established.
instance, a children's day care agency can access
CORI records on any potential employee without applying
for an individual request. Armed forces units can
review the criminal records of potential recruits.
Emergency shelters may access CORI records on potential
employees and volunteers.
almost no hope for really rebuilding your lives, leaving you marginalized
with very little hope," says Fennell.
Tri-Ad Veterans hopes to ensure that CORI-related issues are addressed
through the WPPRC.
on God Ministries brings values training as well as logistical support
to the WPPRC.
founder of BCOG, is an experienced consultant in organizational
planning and is helping Whittier President Frederica Williams develop
its program model while including spiritually based support.
Lee sees spiritual
training as not necessarily religion-oriented. Rather, he believes
moral values are often situational and can be changed.
stealing is not necessarily a wrong thing if you have to steal to
survive - hurting is not a wrong thing if you have to protect yourself,"
Lee. Moving away from that background and towards a goal-oriented
lifestyle is crucial to avoiding criminal activity, he says.
In the end, that's what
the issue really is: breaking down the ongoing subculture of crime
that persists in the Roxbury community.
RUTH MIRIAM SULLIVAN