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Boston seeks $15M to cope with release of inmates

Banner Staff

Mayor Thomas M. Menino sought this week $15 million from the Patrick administration to help manage the potential release of hundred of inmates as a result of an estimated 34,000 mishandled drug cases by state lab chemist Annie Dookhan.

Dookhan is accused of falsifying thousands of results at the now-closed testing facility in Jamaica Plain, which had been overseen by the state Public Health Department.

Prosecutors say Dookhan altered drug samples to obtain positive results and listed some samples as positive without even testing them.

An estimated 600 prisoners in Suffolk County, many with extensive criminal histories, could have their convictions tossed out because of the suspected evidence tampering.

In order to maintain safety in the streets, Menino and city law enforcement officials are deploying more police officers and specialized drug and gang units.

They are also assembling “crisis re-entry” teams of police, probation officers and outreach workers to help freed inmates return to society. The city will provide freed inmates emergency housing, education and job training programs, and mental health and substance abuse counseling.

The teams began meeting Friday with inmates slated for release.

A Patrick administration spokesman said it would review the request.

“We must provide the necessary resources to address potential wrongful convictions and protect public safety while looking for opportunities to support reentry programs we know have a proven track record of preventing recidivism,” spokesman Alex Zaroulis stated in published reports.

According to Mayor Menino, the crisis re-entry team will conduct mandatory pre-release orientations for those individuals that are being released.

The team will include members of the Boston Police Department, the District Attorney’s office, Department of Probation and street workers from the Boston Centers for Youth and Families.

These meetings will be led by a representative from the Department of Corrections, and will address 5-10 inmates at one time. Individuals will also be provided written information on Boston-based service providers that can assist with jobs, housing, health care and education.

“It is unfortunate that one person can cause such harm to the legal process and in turn such potential for harm to Boston’s neighborhoods,” Mayor Menino said in a statement last week. “We are concerned about the large number of individuals who will be released from state prison with no plan for transition back into society, and just as concerned about those who may return to a lifestyle that can cause turmoil on our streets.”

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley is working closely with Menino.

“[We] recognize the gravity of this situation,” Conley said in a statement.

Material from Mayor Menino’s office and published reports contributed to this story.