You know, it’s interesting to go to these things, especially when they’re not held in your own ‘hood. For me, it was either Roxbury or Lawrence, either one vastly different from my hometown of Medford. In Roxbury, prison reform and trying to reintegrate folks leaving prison is a big deal. I must have heard that five times. I hate to sound like a White Guy That Doesn’t Get It, but I don’t think one gets any idea from the mainstream media of what matters to folks in minority communities in the urban centers. The debate on CORI in the election season was so one-sided, you really didn’t get an idea of the real impact that these laws have on the life of neighborhoods. This may seem far afield from “civic engagement” per se; but we’re talking about the very basic elements of getting people reintegrated into society, building “social capital”. That is indeed a civic engagement of sorts.
Perhaps the most touching statement came from Lawyer Johnson, a man convicted in 1971 for a murder he did not commit. Overcoming his nervousness, Mr. Johnson said that he hoped that Gov. Patrick would “change the culture that makes people think that people in prison come from prison.” You know, I hope that more of our opinion leaders take the time to understand what exactly our criminal justice system is doing to certain neighborhoods. It’s not serving the goal of public safety for the folks that happen to live in the middle of it. Time to stop playing fear-politics get the policies right — for both taxpayers and residents.