LSC class members developed a deeper understanding of topics like immigration, community policing, and pathways to prison during our annual Criminal Justice Day on July 19. The class gathered at the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office in Dartmouth and had the opportunity to hear the perspectives and insights of several local leaders working in the field everyday.
Our day began with a visit from Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, who shared his insights about a variety of public safety issues including his perspective on illegal immigration and current immigration laws. Hodgson has been actively involved in immigration enforcement efforts on national, state, and local levels for some time and is known for his opposition in the current debate on sanctuary cities.
Helena DaSilva Hughes (LSC ’09), executive director of the Immigrants’ Assistance Center, focused more locally by discussing the important work taking place on the South Coast to support the over 7000 immigrants who are legal permanent residents overcome language, cultural, and economic barriers, including those facing deportation due to several immigration bills passed in 1996. In addition to a quick lesson on U.S. immigration laws, Helena, who is a Portuguese immigrant herself, shared startling statistics and first-hand stories that clearly demonstrated just how necessary a reform in U.S. immigration policy is for our country and region.
While they don’t always see eye-to-eye, Hodgson and DaSilva-Hughes maintain a productive cross-sector partnership and work collaboratively on local immigration issues. Both acknowledged the importance of working across the aisle on complex issues such as immigration. “We respect each other and know that we need each other to make progress,” said DaSilva-Hughes.
Bettina Borders, retired first Judge of the Bristol County Juvenile Court, shared her wisdom about working with court-involved youth. Borders was instrumental in launching the state’s first juvenile drug court and advocating for new approaches, such as restorative justice, a model that personalizes crime by having the victims and the offenders mediate a restitution agreement to the satisfaction of each. Timothy Paicopolos, Esq., a staff attorney for Catholic Social Services of Fall River, complemented both Helena and Bettina’s talks by sharing his experience working
with unaccompanied minor immigration cases – a significant and often overlooked issue impacting the South Coast.
Chief Joseph Cordeiro from the New Bedford Police department inspired class members with an update on the Department’s Walk and Talk program to get police officers out of their cars and walking the streets to regularly engage with community members. “We’re a city of one,” explained Chief Cordeiro, a 31-year veteran of the force who’s served as Chief for the last year. “We have to come together – we all have a role to play in making our city wonderful.”
The day’s discussions became very real during a thought-provoking tour of the House of Corrections. Built in the early 90’s, the facility was originally designed to hold 308 inmates and is now housing 890 – a local example of the nation’s mass incarceration problem. Class members had the opportunity to speak with several Corrections Officers about the experiences they face daily and sat down with two inmates to hear about their pathway to prison, what they’ve learned while in the system, and how they plan to turn their lives around.
This year’s criminal justice session was certainly a day of profound learning in which a broad spectrum of viewpoints were shared, leaving class members with much food for thought. Thank you to the Bristol County Sheriff’s Department for hosting LSC and to all of our speakers for volunteering their time and expertise with the class.