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In Boston, U.S. AG Outlines White House Efforts To Reduce Reincarceration03:08
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U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaks about the Obama administration's work on criminal justice reform and reentry services Wednesday at the Suffolk County House of Correction in Boston. (Stephan Savoia/AP)
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaks about the Obama administration's work on criminal justice reform and reentry services Wednesday at the Suffolk County House of Correction in Boston. (Stephan Savoia/AP)
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U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch was in Boston Wednesday, where she spoke about inmate reincarceration and what the White House is doing to address it.

Lynch met with advocates working to prevent released inmates from returning to prison. And she spoke about criminal justice reform afterward at the Suffolk County House of Corrections.

"Here in Massachusetts and here in Suffolk County, you really are an example to so many other communities, and we look forward ... to letting your story help other communities also deal with welcoming our family members back home where they belong," she said.

But progress has been slow in Massachusetts.

A recent study by the Council of State Governments Justice Center shows the reincarceration rate for state prisoners was 35 percent in 2011.

Lynch said access to jobs is key to successful reentry into society. It could also provide a boost to the economy.

"When you think about the number of people who are released from our institutions ever year, over 600,000 a year ...the individuals who are coming home are a resource, and we cannot afford to waste resources," she said.

Lynch's visit to Boston followed President Obama's State of the Union address this week, where he nodded to the issue of recidivism.

"I see it in the American who served his time, made bad mistakes as a child but now is dreaming of starting over — and I see it in the business owner who gives him that second chance," the president said.

That message isn't lost on True-See Allah, who heads up reintegration services at the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department.

"Statistics tell us that the first 24 to 48 hours are crucial to a returning citizen's chances at success," he said. "And if he's connected to somebody that's going to connect him to a job immediately, it takes away the time for him to plot, plan, scheme and think about going in a criminal direction."

And Allah said that benefits the bottom line of the correction system — increasing public safety.

Allah oversees the sheriff department's Boston Reentry Initiative, which receives federal funding for its work. He said part of the solution to reincarceration needs to come from business leaders.

"To take that chance and invest in us, not just anybody, but someone who goes through a program, gets an OSHA certification, gets a carpentry skill, gets some tangibles, and then if they have the academic prowess, they could be his next foreman," Allah said.

And that message isn't lost on some in the business community.

A contractor at Wednesday's meeting said with the shortage of workers facing the construction industry, released prisoners could be a vital source of labor.

This segment aired on January 14, 2016.

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Simón Ríos is an award-winning bilingual reporter in WBUR's newsroom.

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