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City Councilor Jackson Suggests Creating Criminal Re-Entry Department

Boston City Councilors look to work with state with many chronic offenders re-entering the city due to the Jamaica Plain Drug Lab scandal.

With as many as 600 convicted drug dealers headed to the streets of Boston before their full sentences are up, city councilors are brainstorming about how to handle the influx.

"We have seen the news. We know there are and will be several hundred more people released into our community... due to the crisis at the JP state lab," said District 7 Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson at Wednesday's council meeting.

A "rogue chemist" may have mishandled evidence in 34,000 cases over nine years of work at the shuttered State Drug Lab in Jamaica Plain. State and municipal officials have been struggling to deal with the fallout as convicted drug dealers get released early.

Calling for an immediate hearing to address the issue, Jackson said many of the individuals who have or will be released haven't gone through the stepdown process of different levels of security at prisons, proving they are safe to the community. 

Jackson said "Boston will get the bulk of these folks" who are being released.

"This gives the City of Boston the chance to step forward and help with re-entry," said Jackson. He also floated the idea of creating a city department to help with individuals re-entering into society from prison. He said individuals need help with finding housing because it's harder to find housing when you have a criminal record. That mean convicts are often "thrust into living with friends who are partaking in activities that got them in trouble."

(Check out the National Reentry Resource Center's website here for more insight into criminal reentry resources across the country.)

Like Jackson, At-Large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley said the matter is imminent and could permeate every neighborhood, but she doesn’t want people to panic.

But said chronic offenders are being released, who will be given opportunities to contribute to society. She added some individuals who are gang-related, and "already behind the wall are already making threats about what they’re going to do when they get out."

District 8 Councilor Mike Ross commended Mayor Thomas Menino for lobbying the state for $15 million to deal with individuals re-entering Boston. Ross said he wants to know how that money will be spent by the city, adding he doesn't want it all going to the police department. He said some of the money should go organizations helping preventing violence. 

A future hearing date was expected to be announced in the coming days.

Read more about how , are dealing with the JP Drug Lab scandal.

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