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Group opposing mass incarceration celebrates 5th year

Arlington police, politicians among those honored

Prison imageNote how public opinion has shifted ...

UPDATED, Feb. 14: The Mass Incarceration Working Group at the First Parish Unitarian Universalist is celebrated its fifth anniversary as a group on Sunday, Feb. 11.

A video of a portion of Sunday's event is available here >

Members of the Arlington Police Department were honored at the event for their work to extend the department's impartial-policing practices and commitment to restorative justice rather than incarceration.

Chief Frederick Ryan, Capt. Julie Flaherty, Sgt. Brian Fennelley and Officers Dennis Mahoney and Michael Hogan all represented the department.

State Sens. Will Brownsberger, Cindy Friedman and Jamie Eldridge, as well as state Reps. Sean Garballey and Dave Rogers were also honored at the anniversary celebration for their work on Beacon Hill to drive change statewide.

The event featured a keynote address from attorney Rahsaan D. Hall, who serves as the director of the racial justice program for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and works to advocate for legislative solutions to racial justice issues. He spoke on the topic "What a Difference a DA Makes."

"It's become clear that incarceration alone is not a solution to the issues that face Arlington and every other community throughout Massachusetts," Ryan said in a Feb. 14 news release.

"We remain committed to fair and impartial policing and finding new and more meaningful ways to serve our community. Being tough on crime is relatively easy work; being smart on crime is difficult and labor intensive work but there is no question that smart policing has better outcomes. I'm grateful for the continued support of the Mass Incarceration Working Group."

Ryan serves as a board member with Communities for Restorative Justice, which partners with area police departments to provide victims a forum to discuss the impacts of a crime on them, and allows offenders to understand and take responsibility for their actions in lieu of imprisonment.

Ryan also serves as a cochairman of the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, which empowers law enforcement agencies to direct those suffering from substance addictions toward recovery rather than into the criminal justice system.

The program was from 3 to 3:30 p.m., with the rest of the time for mingling and enjoying tasty appetizers, home-baked treats and conversation.

Group members know they are not there yet. A conference committee is discussing the state House and Senate versions of the omnibus criminal-justice bill, trying to come up with a consensus version that can become law.

Perhaps that process will be done by mid-February, but probably not. The final bill will be far from perfect, organizers say. And no legislative reforms could change everything that needs to be changed, they say. A lot of policies and practices, philosophies and training programs, need to change, too.

People working in the system — from police officers to prosecutors to parole officers — need to shift how they understand their roles and have the resources to work differently, supporters of the group say.

Still, sometimes the group needs to celebrate: come together, enjoy each other's company, lift up the good changes that have happened, and replenish hope for more good changes.

This news announcement was published Monday, Jan. 15, 2018, and updated Feb. 14.

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