Op-eds:

September 7, 2018
By

Back to school

By Mayor Martin Walsh

Dear Students,

September is one of my favorite months. The weather is getting cooler, football is back in season, and students like yourselves are heading back to school.

You might not know it, but it takes a village to prepare for the first day of school. Your teachers, principals, and custodians have spent the summer getting ready for the big day— creating lessons, preparing your classrooms, and planning the great adventures you’re sure to have this year.

The first day of school provides countless opportunities. You’ll find new ways to develop as students, athletes, artists, and leaders. You’ll reconnect with old friends, and make new ones. It’s a fresh start— a chance to start things off on the right foot. I hope that you will set new goals, and work hard to make this your best school year yet.

The new year will also bring new challenges. But persevering is an important part of school and growing up. I can say that from personal experience. When I was seven, I was diagnosed with cancer. I had to miss a lot of school for treatments and I event had to repeat fifth grade. But the support of my family, my teachers, and my friends helped me pull through. That’s the strength of the Boston community. I hope you know that our city will always have your back, too. If you’re ever going through a hard time, don’t hesitate to ask a trusted adult, a teacher, or your school community for help. We’re all here to root one another on.

Whatever this school year has in store, I wish you the best of luck. Challenge yourselves. Try new things. And put your best foot forward. If you start the school year with an open mind and an open heart, there’s nothing you can’t achieve. I’ll be rooting for you every step of the way.

I’ll see you soon,

Mayor Walsh

In push for reentry funding, Legislature stepped up

In the final flurry of important and worthwhile legislation making its way through the Legislature this session, lawmakers deserve special recognition for making sure critical funding for reentry programs that help change the lives and build the futures of men and women transitioning from incarceration to the community did not fall by the wayside.

The Conference Committee budget recommendation included $5 million to establish a competitive grant program under the Office of the Commissioner of Probation that will allow non-profit organizations to seek funding for community-based residential reentry programs. And when Gov. Baker vetoed half of that funding, both the House – led by Ways & Means Chairman Jeffrey Sánchez – and Senate rallied opposition that led to successful votes to override the veto and keep the full funding intact.

This was no small victory. The reentry funding comes at a time when organizations providing vital support to men and women trying to start over after incarceration are struggling in Massachusetts. At least four programs have either closed or dramatically scaled back over the past two years because of a lack of funding. Last year, the Massachusetts state budget included just $90,000 for reentry. That’s less than the cost of incarcerating two people in state prison for a year.

With this funding, an estimated 800 men and women will receive intensive case management along with support finding housing, employment, connecting with substance abuse and mental health treatment, and more. These are all key components to providing individuals a solid foundation on which to build a new life.

Data show that these services are sorely needed in Massachusetts. More than two-thirds of people leaving county jails and more than half of those released from state prisons in 2011 were re-arraigned within three years. Participation in a reentry program, however, can reduce recidivism by up to 25 percent for individuals considered at high risk to re-offend. For too long, Massachusetts has not invested in this proven strategy to reduce crime, change lives, and strengthen its communities.

That’s why more than eight months ago, Community Resources for Justice, a reentry services provider headquartered in Boston, began to raise awareness of the dire need for state funding. Soon, the call for funding became a chorus that included defense attorneys, prosecutors, law enforcement officials, community leaders, elected officials, and dozens of individuals and organizations urging change.

Lawmakers on Beacon Hill heard us, and they listened. Sánchez and others made securing this funding a top priority and never wavered. We are thankful that this important element of criminal justice reform is moving forward.

John J. Larivee is President & CEO of Community Resources for Justice.

Lew Finfer is Co-Director of the Massachusetts Communities Action Network and a leader in the Jobs not Jails Coalition