Carmen C Massimiano Jr
Boston Globe Graphic: "Cashing In" -
Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. (D) - Current Salary $101,499 - Proposed Salary $123,209 - Percent Increase 21% - Average inmate population 336 (9th).
Notes: Inmate population figures as of March 28, 2005. Massachusetts Department of Correction.
Berkshire Sheriff's Department, Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., Sheriff SDB, 40-Hours, Annual Rate: $123,209.00, 2006 Earnings: $122,792.00.
Senate OK's big increase in salaries for sheriffs
New levels would surpass US average
By Raphael Lewis, (Boston) Globe Staff
November 17, 2005
The Massachusetts Senate has agreed to push the salaries of the state's 14 sheriffs to $123,209 a year, boosting their pay far above the national average.
The salary increase, included in a sprawling spending bill passed Tuesday night, approves pay increases ranging from $16,000 to $39,000 a year for the sheriffs. The sheriffs serving the state's three least-populous counties -- Nantucket, Dukes, and Franklin -- would see their pay jump 46 percent, from their current $84,583.
Under the bill, Norfolk County Sheriff Michael G. Bellotti's salary would increase from $101,499 to $123,209, while Suffolk Sheriff Andrea Cabral would see her pay rise from $107,138 to $123,209.
The spending bill would also give $5,000 raises to the state's top elected officials, as well as 5 percent pay hikes to assistant district attorneys and 15 percent increases to trial court judges. The spending bill now must be reconciled with a similar House bill before the legislation is sent to Governor Mitt Romney.
Senator Therese Murray, the Senate Ways and Means Committee chairwoman, said the sheriffs had been lobbying for at least three years to establish pay parity among all 14 sheriffs. ''Every one of them does something different, so it's been a bone of contention" that some make more than others, she said.
If the salary increase becomes law, Massachusetts sheriffs would be paid far more than their sheriffs across the country, according to recent surveys. A 2003 US Bureau of Justice Statistics survey, relying on 2000 data, found that the average salary nationwide was $49,400 to $51,900 a year, or roughly $70,000 less than Massachusetts sheriffs would make under the Senate legislation.
A 2003 survey conducted by the National Association of Counties determined that sheriffs in the Northeast made an average salary of $63,279.
In Massachusetts, sheriffs' pay is currently tied to two things: the size of the resident and inmate populations of the county in which they serve and the salary of trial court judges. The sheriffs serving the seven most heavily populated counties -- such as Middlesex, Essex, Suffolk, and Worcester -- receive 95 percent of the trial court judges' pay, which currently stands at $112,777. The four sheriffs serving somewhat smaller counties, such as Berkshire and Hampden, receive 90 percent, and the sheriffs representing the three smallest counties get just 75 percent.
The bill passed by the Senate Tuesday would scrap that system and pay all the sheriffs 95 percent of the trial court judges' pay.
Because the bill would hike the judges' salaries to $129,694 a year, all sheriffs would now be paid $123,209 annually. That means the sheriffs of Dukes, Nantucket, and Franklin counties, which have a collective population of fewer than 100,000 people, will each get 46 percent raises, or roughly $39,000.
The bill would make the sheriff of the least populous county in Massachusetts, Nantucket, the highest-paid sheriff in the state, because the Senate bill left intact a little-known law that allows that officeholder to retain all fees collected for serving summonses. In fiscal 2005, those fees totaled $3,236, according to the Nantucket County treasurer's office.
As a result, Nantucket County Sheriff Richard M. Bretschneider would make $126,000 a year if the Senate bill became law, or about $1,000 more than the $124,920 the lieutenant governor would make under the Senate bill.
Asked if Bretschneider's work was worth roughly $126,000 a year, Senator Murray said, ''I don't know. That's what [the Massachusetts Sheriffs Association] tells me." But she added, ''He does everything on the island. He's a one-man band. He transports prisoners, does all the civil process work."
Bretschneider did not return calls seeking comment, and the Massachusetts Sheriffs Association declined to comment.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics survey also determined that pay varied widely, depending on the size of the county a sheriff served, much as the current Massachusetts law calls for. Those working in counties with 1 million or more residents were paid $99,300 to $105,400, while those serving counties with 10,000 to 24,999 people were paid $33,800 to $35,000.
The US Census Bureau estimates that Nantucket County has a year-round population of 10,124, making it the most sparsely populated county in Massachusetts. It is also the only county that does not have a prison.
The $241 million spending bill would also establish retroactive pay raises for the state's constitutional officers, something that Governor Mitt Romney called for earlier this year. Under the measure, the attorney general, the auditor, the secretary of state, and the treasurer would all receive roughly $5,000 pay hikes beginning July 1 of this year. If signed into law, the attorney general would make $127,523, and the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer, and auditor would make $124,920.
The measure would also boost the governor's pay roughly $5,000 to $140,535. However, neither Romney nor Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey take their salaries.
Barbara Anderson, who heads Citizens for Limited Taxation, questioned why the Senate was handing out pay raises when 48,000 state residents are receiving retroactive capital gains tax bills. She also questioned why Nantucket's sheriff deserved such a big raise and, for that matter, the very existence of a Nantucket sheriff's office.
''Can't the local police serve process?" Anderson said. ''I don't think that's an unreasonable question. I guess you have to keep an eye on the sea for all those pirates coming in from the Caribbean."
As you can see, Berkshire Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., among his 13 counterparts throughout the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts, are in line for substantial pay raises if the State Senate proposal passes into law.
I liken Sheriff Massimiano to an authoritarian bureaucratic leader (such as John Ashcroft) who serves only the powerful for pay offs like receiving a 21% pay raise. When I was interested in running for Berkshire State Senate early in 2004, no one was more intimidating and negative towards me than Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. Repeatedly, Massimiano would not sign my nomination papers at local events. Moreover, Massimiano spoke to me in a very put down tone of voice. On top of that, an employee of his told me that if he helped me in my campaign, Massimiano would fire him.
Massimiano is a hard-nosed Sheriff. When the Gt. Barrington 1st time drug offenders were charged, he supported D.A. Capeless' heavy handedness in pursuing a mandatory 2-year jail sentence with no other alternatives on the table.
When Massimiano was on the school committee, he supported Mayor Jim Ruberto in not agreeing to a progressive public teacher union contract. Mayor Ruberto's public teacher union contract now puts increasing liabilities on public educators who teach the city's children how to read, write, add and subtract. Massimiano was a stalwart proponent of Ruberto's disincentives for good teachers to come and teach in Pittsfield.
If I was in the State Legislature, which I am not because I dropped out of the 2004 Democratic Primaries in early-April of 2004 and moved to southern New Hampshire to be with my family, I would have by now proposed the impeachment of Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. from the position of Berkshire Sheriff. Massimiano is intimidating and bullying to citizens who participate in government. Moreover, he is too harsh on first time offenders of nonviolent crimes. Lastly, he is a disservice to the public educators of the community he serves as Chair of the School Committee that now provides incentives for third-rate public educators to stay in Pittsfield, while giving disincentives for good teachers to come and teach in Pittsfield.
What is Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. all about? Read the 11/17/2005 Boston Globe news article and find out.
Please stop the proposed 21% pay raise for Berkshire Sheriff Massimiano and his 13 counterparts throughout the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts!
Jonathan A. Melle
December 2, 2005
UNBELIEVABLE! Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., Berkshire County’s long-standing Sheriff and more recently Pittsfield’s School Committee Chairman until the end of this month, is completely unbelievable. If one takes the time to read the following news articles, you will see that Massimiano is asking for increased state funding for his jail operations, while also having no comment on his excessive 21% proposed pay parity pay raise pending before the Massachusetts Legislature and Governor.
Here was Carmen Massimiano early this year telling Pittsfield Public School Teachers and their Unions that they had to sacrifice some of their benefits in the form of health insurance liabilities for the collective good of the City of Pittsfield. As Mayor Jim Ruberto’s most outspoken supporter to give Pittsfield Teachers less entitlements, and predictably even less in future contracts, Massimiano is now asking the state not for more funding for the Pittsfield Public Schools or municipal aid, but rather for more money for his state operated jail while at the very same time remaining hypocritically silent on his proposed 21% pay raise.
I dissent against the very poor leadership of Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. I believe Massimiano should leave politics sooner than later, enjoy his lucrative retirement years, and give the government back to the people!
Jonathan A. Melle
"Jail's financial woes mirror those statewide"
By Benning W. De La Mater, Berkshire Eagle Staff
The Berkshire Eagle, Thursday, December 01, 2005
PITTSFIELD — Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano Jr. says Berkshire County's House of Corrections is dealing with the same financial burdens state corrections facilities are facing.
On Tuesday, Gov. WILLARD Mitt Romney sent a letter to lawmakers asking them to approve an additional $12.8 million to avoid hundreds of layoffs at prisons across the state.
Carmen Massimiano said no one at House of Corrections would be affected by those cuts if they were enacted. But he also stressed the fact that county facilities will also need that same kind of financial help in the near future.
"The governor should be making the same request of the legislature for our county facilities," he said. "The same stresses and strains they're seeing, we're seeing as well. We have more inmates in the county system than are in the state's."
Carmen Massimiano said the burdens on the budget include rising costs of medical treatment, medications and energy.
"It's what everyone is dealing with at home, except we're open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," Massimiano said. "We're getting whacked in every manner. Every sheriff is talking about it."
In addition to increased fuel and medical costs, WILLARD Mitt Romney cited a 4 percent growth in the Department of Correction's inmate population in the current fiscal year. Massimiano said the House of Correction's inmate population is growing at a similar level, if not higher.
WILLARD Mitt Romney said there are sufficient state funds currently available to fill the gap. The additional funds will let the Department of Corrections maintain their current staffing levels, he said. Massimiano called Romney's request "a very responsible move, a harbinger of things to come."
Hefty raise for sheriffs OK'd by state senators
By Rebecca Fater, Transcript Statehouse Bureau
North Adams Transcript
Saturday, November 19, 2005
BOSTON — Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen Massimiano Jr. could see his salary jump by $21,710, thanks to an across-the-board pay hike approved by state senators.
The raise would put all the state's sheriffs on an equal salary footing of $123,209 a year. They currently earn from $84,583 to $107,138, based on a formula calculated on the size of their county.
Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., D-Pittsfield, who voted in favor of the raise, said he did not think the average salaries were out of line compared to other states.
"The sheriffs work hard and have done a great job, particularly in Berkshire County," Nuciforo said.
For Carmen Massimiano, who currently receives a salary of $101,499, the legislation means a 21 percent pay raise.
He is one of the state's longest-serving sheriffs, having first been elected in 1978. Carmen Massimiano was not available to comment Thursday.
Senators included the raise in a supplemental bill they approved earlier this week.
Sen. Steve Panagiotakos, D-Lowell, said the raises stem from overdue pay hikes of 15 percent that senators granted county judges in the same supplemental bill.
The way the law is structured, sheriffs' pay is tied to the county judges' salaries, which are also the same across the board. The top seven sheriffs in the state (according to county size) receive 95 percent of the judges' salary. Those sheriffs are from Bristol, Essex, Hampshire, Middlesex, Plymouth, Suffolk and Worcester counties.
The next four sheriffs — from Barnstable, Berkshire, Hamp-den and Norfolk counties — receive 90 percent and the bottom three — from Dukes, Franklin and Nantucket counties — receive 75 percent, Panagiotakos said.
Because their pay is tied to the county judges, sheriffs automatically receive a raise when the judges get bumped up. This time, some of them received a much larger raise than others — such as Sheriff Richard M. Bretschneider of Nantucket County, who makes $84,583 and stands to receive a 46 percent raise — when senators decided to put the sheriffs on equal footing. Ac-cording to the legislation, all sheriffs would now receive 95 percent of county judges' salary.
The House of Representatives approved its version of the supplemental bill weeks ago, but did not include the adjusted raises for the sheriffs.
The two approved versions of the bill are now in the hands of conference committee members, who will work to compromise on a final version.
That version must be approved by both the House and Senate, and then signed by Gov. Mitt Romney, before it becomes law.
But because the bill is already in the hands of a conference committee, representatives won't have another opportunity to debate the issue on the House floor.
"Sometimes public officials do deserve more money, but the case has to be made and it has to be... tied to real need and not look like it's being done behind closed doors," said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause.
Sheriffs in Massachusetts have vastly different responsibilities than their counterparts in other states. In Florida, for example, law enforcement is handled primarily by the county sheriff. In Massachusetts, a town or city's police department oversees law enforcement, while sheriffs oversee the county's prisons and jails.
That distinction does not mean sheriffs here don't work as hard as other sheriffs, Panagiotakos said.
"I see it as a different job," he said. "I think our corrections (institutions) are run pretty damn well."
Panagiotakos suggested the state's sheriffs deserve to be paid in relation to other "chief executives," such as district attorneys, whose pay is the same from county to county.
District attorneys currently are paid $117,500 annually.
Carmen C Massimiano Jr
Dear Berkshire Bloggers,
Peter Arlos is building a political machine through such high profile Pittsfield Politicians as Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., who is the long standing Berkshire County Sheriff.
Arlos' goal is not to save the City of Pittsfield any money, but to consolidate his power by placing more public sector positions under the control and authority of his close political ally, Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr.
I believe Peter Arlos is feeding people to the wolves by proposing to place public sector employees under Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. The following are my reasons for stating this assertion.
#1 - Peter Arlos loves to take away peoples' pensions, benefits and other entitlements in the name of saving the city money. In my own case, I have a long standing, over 4 year case with the VA for Veterans Disability Benefits. The President of the U.S.A., George W. Bush, ordered me a hearing on July 19, 2004 in Washington, D.C. so that I could state my case for these benefits. When I returned from the hearing, Peter Arlos informed me that he was going to write to President Bush and end my benefits. I asked Arlos why he would do such a nasty thing. Arlos said that I am an abled body man who should work for a living. I told Arlos that I do work for a living at Sears as a Tool Associate. Arlos then laughed at me and said that I am foolish for working in a retail store because I won't receive a pension. I replied to Arlos that the VA is supposed to grant me a disability pension. Arlos told me he would fight my disability pension. Arlos then told me that if President Bush really wanted to help me then he should have given me a job. I replied that I did not ask for a job from President Bush. I asked President Bush for my VA disability benefits. Arlos said he would write to the President to stop me from receiving my VA disability benefits.
#2 - Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. is a most foul individual. I once was in Peter Arlos' office when Massimiano paid a visit. Massimiano disparaged one of his former Deputy Sheriffs, calling him the sexually humiliating name for one who performs oral sex on a man. Massimiano is a vindictive and mean-spirited man. People have told me many times over the years how they fear Massimiano, and that he creates such an environment in the County Jail. People have told me that Massimiano is a bully. Moreover, I have experienced Massimiano's bullying first-hand when I wanted to run the Democratic Primaries in 2004 against State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. Massimiano showed up at most of the Democratic events and continually refused to sign my nomination papers. Massimiano spoke to me in a put down tone of voice like he was dominant and superior. Truth be told, I just saw Massimiano as a sorry, pathetic, fat old man who was too full of himself to accept reality. I asked one of Massimiano's workers at the County Jail if he would serve on my campaign committee and he replied that I should know that Massimiano would fire him if he campaigned for me. One of the reasons why I moved out of Massachusetts and to New Hampshire, and had to drop out of the Senate race, was because of Massimiano's intimidation.
In conclusion, I believe Arlos is playing into Massimiano's hands by transfering City of Pittsfield dispatchers to the Berkshire Sheriff. I hope that this measure is seen for what it is, and summarily opposed.
Jonathan A. Melle
"Arlos sees savings in dispatch merger"
By Jack Dew, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Sunday, October 09, 2005
PITTSFIELD — At-large City Council candidate Peter G. Arlos has proposed merging the city's police and fire dispatch services with the communications center run by the Berkshire County Sheriff's office, a move he claims would save hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars but which others say would lead to minimal savings, at best.
Arlos has filed a petition with the City Council asking the city to transfer police and fire dispatch service to the sheriff's new communication's center, which is being installed at the Berkshire County House of Correction. The new office is expected to open by the end of the year.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Arlos claimed the move would save $304,130 in salaries paid to Pittsfield's dispatchers, $44,458 in annual overtime and about $100,000 per year in health insurance and pension benefits. It would mean firing the city's nine dispatchers, and Arlos said the city could ask the sheriff's office to give priority to hiring those nine as it expands its services.
In addition to cost savings, Arlos said the merger would free police officers who supervise and train the dispatchers, allowing them to patrol city streets.
"We have an opportunity to use the most advanced communication technology around (at the sheriff's center). Even if it ends up being the same cost, we would free those policemen to go out and pound the beat and deal with the turkey war that we have going on," Arlos said, referring to Thursday's killing of two wild turkeys in Pittsfield.
Each year, Pittsfield dispatchers field 35,000 phone calls, 15,000 of which are 911 calls. The sheriff's office handles about 30,000 calls a year from 23 towns; about 3,000 of them are made to 911.
Sheriff's spokesman Bob McDonough said the agency would likely charge Pittsfield a per-call fee to take over its dispatching. He said he did not know what that cost might be and declined to speculate. He said Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano's "view on this is that, even on a per-call basis, it would be cheaper than what (Pittsfield) pays now, what with the costs of equipment and contracts and software."
Police Chief Anthony J. Riello said past studies have indicated the costs are about the same.
"We have explored it in the past with the state police because they were planning on a regional communications center. One of the issues they had is that they could not handle our call volume," Riello said. "The sheriff's (office) cannot do it with their existing staff. If they were to take our service over ... it would not be for free."
Riello said the priority should not be the cost, but the effectiveness of the service. "All I have ever wanted out of dispatch is that they give good, quality dispatch service for the city of Pittsfield. Period. If we can do that in a creative way, that is fine with me, as long as we get good, quality dispatch."
City Council President Gerald M. Lee, a retired Pittsfield police chief, said he doubts the savings would be significant. But he said the city could lose dispatchers who are familiar with the city and its frequent callers, which would diminish the quality of the service.
"You are joining a bigger department that is not as familiar with the city. The more dispatchers you have, the more diluted the familiarity with the calls," Lee said. "A dispatcher can be familiar with a call or an address, and that can help the police. If you are handling one call from Stockbridge and then one call from Pittsfield, you are not going to be as familiar with it."
Instead of giving up dispatch services, Lee said he would prefer to see the city give up its prisoners.
Currently, the city holds the people it arrests until they are arraigned in District Court and either released or sent to the Berkshire County House of Correction to await trial. That means officers must staff the police headquarters at all times to monitor and guard the prisoners.
When the new jail was built five years ago, the state had intended to transfer that prisoner function to the sheriff's office and free Pittsfield officers to patrol the streets, but the state has never funded that program, Lee said.
Arlos said he believes the city could persuade the sheriff to handle dispatch on behalf of Pittsfield for $40,000 a year. He said he would argue that the city already subsidizes the jail since the $34 million facility is a public building and does not pay property taxes.
"That's another bargaining point," Arlos said. "We've already contributed to the jail, and the most we should pay is $40,000."
"We would free those policemen to go out and pound the beat and deal with the turkey war that we have going on." — Peter Arlos
May 12, 2005
Dear News Media, People, Politicians:
Re: "School Zone Charges Pressed", by Carrie Saldo (Berkshire Eagle, May 12, 2005): "Justice" in Berkshire County is a complete corruption of the spirit of the law! Berkshire County District Attorney David Capeless and Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., are nothing more than henchmen and career machine politicians who only care about their status and big state salaries, benefits and future pensions. I ask that these two public officials be impeached and their pensions rescinded for their unfair and immoral mistreatment of the seven 1st time drug seller offenders by their pushing for full prosecution of the offenders' school zone drug selling offenses and mandated 2-year prison term.
What messages are Capeless and Massimiano sending to the communities? COERCION! If you break the law, you will NOT be given an opportunity to explain yourself, your situation, your reasons why you committed your offense, your opportunity to ask for a lesser charge and/or punishment, your option to do community service, to not have a black mark on your record, to go to college, especially those who are only 18 years, to serve in the military, to serve in the Peace Corps, Vista, Americorps, and the like. NO, sir! Capeless and Massimiano will just lock you up, throw away your future, and probably scare the crap out of you in the process.
BUT, Capeless and Massimiano will still receive their plum salaries, benefits, pensions, control, influence, and the like. Capeless and Massimiano will be O.K. because they CYA'd themselves at the expense of 7 first time offenders who certainly don't deserve 2-years of jail. If I was a Berkshire state Senator or a 4th Berkshire District state Representative, I would push for the immediate impeachment of these two "law" enforcement henchmen!
NOTE: THIS IS NOT MY LETTER; RATHER, IT IS A LETTER THAT WAS PUBLISHED IN THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE THAT I FULLY SUPPORT!
Article Published: Sunday, May 22, 2005
Sentencing law promotes injustice
To the Editor of THE EAGLE:-
There is nothing "even-handed" or "fair" about mandatory sentencing. Seeking mandatory two-year jail sentences and life-long criminal records for first-time offenders denies those prosecuted their right to judicial procedure.
Anyone punished so severely deserves to have their case considered individually. In his press release, District Attorney Capeless works at VILIFYING a group of young people who showed bad judgment. He wants us to believe that they should be grouped with "dealers" of heroin, LSD and cocaine. Yet, surely he is familiar with the White House study that asserts "In general, marijuana sellers continue to be young users who sell to a network of friends and associates. Marijuana sellers usually do not deal heroin or cocaine." Kids selling to each other should receive consequences that serve as a wake-up call and change their behavior. But UNFAIR sentencing has the potential for being hugely DESTRUCTIVE to the young people and families involved.
If the actions of the youth involved are as abhorrent as Mr. Capeless would have us believe, surely these kids will receive appropriate consequences as determined by a judge on a case-by-case basis. Furthermore, where is the statistical data supporting the effectiveness of the mandatory school zone sentencing law?
A Boston University Study on the school zone law states: "It appears from the study findings that the school zone statute (a) does not make the areas around schools particularly safe for children; (b) cannot reasonably be expected to do so; and (c) perhaps as a result, is not used by prosecutors in a way calculated to move dealing away from schools. Instead the law operates generally to raise the penalty level for drug dealing and does so in ways that are unpredictable for defendants." In other words, the law has proven INEFFECTIVE and is not being used as it was originally intended.
Some would say that because others have had to go to jail in similar circumstances, these kids should too. But past suffering does not mean we cannot choose to change our course. As we educate ourselves to the unfairness, ineffectiveness and destructiveness of mandatory sentencing, we must work for legislative changes. Several local and state politicians assert the need for such changes. But are we willing to sacrifice the kids caught in the middle while changes are being sought?
I applaud the DA's feelings of responsibility for protecting our young people. But I believe that this protection includes promoting positive changes through fair sentencing, in the hope that kids on the wrong path will be guided towards positive changes.
The course of mandatory sentencing, that Mr. Capeless is committed to, promotes INJUSTICE.
Fairness demands that consequences be in proportion to misdeeds and that sentencing be decided on a case-by-case basis. Mandatory sentencing is FLAWED and yet our current DA perseveres in applying it indiscriminately. Is this something our community should be willing to support?
Great Barrington, May 13, 2005
NOTE: THIS IS NOT MY LETTER; RATHER, IT IS A LETTER THAT WAS PUBLISHED IN THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE THAT I FULLY SUPPORT!
Article Published: Saturday, June 11, 2005
To the Editor of THE EAGLE:-
Justice without mercy? The draconian mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines are throwbacks from another era. The legislature enacted these laws in a knee-jerk reaction to the horrors of the drug epidemic in the late '70s and early '80s. They are an anachronism, the product of an outdated way of thinking, a weapon in what Ronald Reagan so eloquently deemed "The War on Drugs." Now, 20 years later with prisons bulging at the seams from non-violent drug offenders; the laws have proven to be ineffective, and unfair, as well as an undue burden on the taxpayer.
It's interesting that the even-minded, intelligent capable men and women of our city government could set civil standards in the drafting of an ordinance prohibiting the opening of an adult entertainment establishment, i.e. strip club, within 200 feet from a playground; yet a 17-year-old kid not even old enough to be a patron of such an establishment has to be sentenced to a mandatory two years for selling a marijuana joint within a thousand feet of the property of a school.
I'm currently serving 15 to 20 years in state prison for a non-violent drug offense. I grew up in Berkshire County, and at age 24, as a full-time college student, I was arrested and sent to prison. A large portion of my minimum mandatory sentence is the result of the school zone statute. In my case, the alleged illegal act took place 999.6 feet from the property line of the nearest school. That's just six inches inside the thousand feet that can trigger the ability of law enforcement to tack on a school zone charge, and thereby enhance any sentence with a mandatory two years.
These laws aren't being used as they were intended. Until the Legislature repeals them, they are on the books. The only caveat is the district attorney's authority to exercise discretion in applying and prosecuting them. It is a much the duty of the district attorney to zealously protect the community from the ills of criminality as it is his responsibility to uphold and preserved the citizen's rights. With authority comes responsibility. To sent young, impressionable, otherwise good kids to a prison cell in lieu of other alternatives when they pose no danger to the community is irresponsible.
JOSHUA G. STEGEMAN
Shirley, June 2, 2005
NOTE: THIS IS NOT MY LETTER; RATHER, IT IS A LETTER THAT WAS PUBLISHED IN THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE THAT I FULLY SUPPORT!
Article Published: Monday, June 27, 2005
Jail violent criminals, not drug experimenters
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
To the Editor of THE EAGLE:-
Due to limited time and money, it is impossible to prosecute and send every criminal offender to prison. It is the responsibility of our district attorney to use his discretion in choosing which crimes require jail time that will make our
community safer. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to make those choices wisely.
Is selling marijuana within 1,000 feet of a basement day care center closed for the summer more dangerous than selling crack cocaine, battering someone or driving while intoxicated for the second or third time? I often read about those offenses bringing suspended sentences.
There's just so much space in our jails. I'd rather see them filled with dangerous criminals than non-violent young people experimenting with drugs. Drug abuse is an important issue. However, prosecuting first offenders to the full extent of an unfair, ineffective law doesn't serve society well. Community service and drug education are more constructive for all concerned than mandatory two-year state prison sentences.
Which crimes should take up our DA's time and our taxpayers' money? If David Capeless cannot distinguish the serious difference between violence and experimenting with marijuana, then he needs to be replaced by someone who can.
Great Barrington, June 19, 2005
Dear Berkshire Bloggers:
The Political Machine is certainly in full gear for David Capeless. The two Mayors of Berkshire County and police officers back tough tactics in law enforcement; their message: Send those straying 18-year-olds to jail instead of to college, the military, or a volunteer service. That is the answer by the following fat old men in political power: Mayors Jim Ruberto & John Barrett III, Sheriff Carmen Massimiano, Police Officers, and the like, who support figuratively tell young adults with substance abuse conditions and criminal records that 2+2=5 and that their collective understanding of what life is like for those young adults at or around 18-years of age at their collective fat stage of life at or around 60-years of age should guide them into rewarding futures. Why? Below is an answer to why the political machine is feeding off of the poor and young people in Pittsfield, North Adams and the surrounding Berkshire County area.
I grew up in Pittsfield, lived temporarily in North Adams, and worked inside of various communities throughout Berkshire County. These are my observations of what it was like to be young in the Berkshires and the negativism put forth by fat old men and bitter old women with political power. Pittsfield's median age is 60-years-old. The Berkshires are populated by mostly elderly people. The focus of Capeless, et al, are to be tough on young people. This toughness is really just negativity and marginalization. Pittsfield's teen pregnancy rate is almost twice the percentage of the entire statewide teen pregnancy rate. Why do you think this is so? The answer is that Pittsfield's community leaders want teenagers to have unprotected sex and have babies because it brings in funding by the state and federal government via welfare programs, public housing subsidies, child support and probate mandates that keep these young parents within the city and county limits, and ultimately it all directly leads to higher crime due to a lack of education and a family economy without self sufficiency. Let us face it, Pittsfield and Berkshire County's biggest resource are its people, and if there is a way to exploit people it is when they are young, uneducated, insecure and facing social problems. Due to Pittsfield's mostly elderly population, it is acceptable for fat old men to use tough tactics against crime because the young people can be bullied, marginalized and treated negatively for the long-term profit of the community's political machine at the tragic expense of continuing the cycles of abuse, poverty and violence. In short, get 'em while they are young and vulnerable through the false pretenses of tough tactics and negativity that really mean exploitation and marginalization via bullying by the political machine.
I still cannot get over how negatively Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. used to talk to me when I lived in the Pittsfield area, especially when I would openly observe, experience and comment on area machine politics. I spoke to a handful of people who worked at the County Jail for Sheriff Massimiano and they told me that he covered up assaults, made workers he did not favor work the late night/early morning shifts, and led a rather questionable personal lifestyle as it related to deviant homosexual personal activities. No one whom I talked to had anything nice to say about him. The messages I received about Massimiano is that he is a bully, people fear him and don't even try to be his friend, that they try their hardest to stay on his good side, they try not to have their name(s) cross his desk, that he is some sort of deviant homosexual. People warned me that if I participated in local or state politics that he would bully me. Then, lo and behold, when I wanted to run for State Senator in early-2004, Massimiano spoke to me with the most negative tone of voice and would not even sign my nomination papers. Of course, Massimiano is one of those people who Pittsfield's political machine revolves around. He is nice to no one of common citizenship, but does a lot of the dirty work for the fat old men and bitter old women of political power.
What does this all mean? The meaning of tough tactics by the political machine David Capeless incestuously married himself into is that they are the real problem. It is the political machine that profits off of the marginalization of the young people they bully and otherwise persecute with negativity. Without high rates of teen pregnancies in Pittsfield and its correlation with substance abuse and criminal activities, Pittsfield would lose millions of dollars of funding for its network of social service agencies, public schools, County Jail, subsidized public housing, and the like, due to the state administered formulaic aid funding programs. Young people without a record of teen or young adult unwanted pregnancies and criminal violations would be free to leave the area and thereby stand up to the negativity by these tough tacticians/machine politicians. The cycles of violence, poverty and abuse would abate, and the political machine would lose its funding, power and domination over the people of Pittsfield and Berkshire County.
Please oppose the political machine by voting out Capeless!
Jonathan A. Melle
"DA charges into race: Backed by Berkshire mayors, Capeless touts tough tactics"
By Jack Dew, Berkshire Eagle Staff
The Berkshire Eagle
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
PITTSFIELD — As he kicked off his campaign for re-election yesterday, Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless took aim at his harshest critics, offering a frank defense of his prosecution of drug crimes.
Capeless will face challenger Judith C. Knight in a Democratic primary on Sept. 19. With no Republican candidate yet in the race, the winner of the primary will almost certainly win the four-year district attorney's term on Nov. 7.
Knight's candidacy grew from the controversial prosecution of suspects arrested in the Taconic parking lot drug investigation in Great Barrington. Nineteen people were charged, many of them teenagers accused of selling marijuana. Capeless has pursued charges of dealing drugs in a school zone against many of these offenders, a crime that carries a mandatory two-year jail sentence.
Capeless' determination to seek the two-year penalty led a group of citizens to form the Concerned Citizens for Appropriate Justice, which has repeatedly attacked Capeless for his stance.
Mayors on hand
Addressing a breakfast gathering of more than 120 people — including North Adams Mayor John Barrett III, Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto and the police chiefs of a half-dozen Berkshire communities — Capeless responded to the criticism and said he will always seek to punish drug dealers.
"I have a very clear message ... to anyone here in Berkshire County or anyone who would think about coming to set up shop here: If you make the decision to sell drugs, we will catch you and we will prosecute you," Capeless said. "If you then make the decision to cooperate with us in our investigations, you will have my discretion and you will receive fairness. But if you do not, if you go to trial, you will face the full force of our laws."
He said his critics use the term "nonviolent offender" "indiscriminately," lumping drug dealers and drug users together. Capeless said his office targets dealers with prosecution and users with counseling and treatment.
"I support rehabilitation and counseling for those who are ravaged by the problem of drug abuse that affects our society. But I have no sympathy ... (for) the people who will take advantage of drug abuse, who will try to profit from that misery," Capeless said.
In an interview following the campaign kickoff, Capeless said it was his "expectation and hope" that the people arrested in the Taconic parking lot investigation would cooperate with authorities and provide the names of their suppliers. When they did not, he said, his office moved to prosecute them as it would any other drug dealers.
"A great distinction is drawn between those who aid us in our investigations. They admit what they are doing, they tell us who they are getting (drugs) from so we can go further up the ladder," he said. "And we deal with those people in a whole different fashion than those who basically thumb their nose at the system."
Knight, a Great Barrington attorney who is challenging Capeless, successfully defended one of the Taconic suspects, winning an acquittal for Kyle Sawin last year.
She said in a telephone interview yesterday that she would take a "reasoned approach" to drug prosecutions, seeking to punish the hardcore dealers and to find a better alternative for minor, first-time offenders.
She also challenged the assertion that those who cooperate are rewarded with leniency. "Apparently they pick and choose who they will allow to cooperate and who they won't," she said. "I know that not each and every one in that parking lot had an opportunity to cooperate."
Knight said the drug cases are "a lightning rod for people, but it is not what the race is about. As the campaign unfolds, we will have plenty of opportunity to educate the voters on the differences between my policies and District Attorney Capeless' policies."
Capeless, a career prosecutor with more than 24 years of experience, was appointed district attorney by Gov. Mitt Romney after his predecessor, Gerard D. Downing, died in December 2003. He won a special election to serve the remaining two years of Downing's term in 2004. He is now seeking election to his first full term in the office.
Capeless' speech was preceded by hearty endorsements from Mayors Barrett and Ruberto, who said Capeless' leadership in the district attorney's office has been a boon to their cities and to the county.
Capeless touted his office's successful prosecution of David Baxter, whom authorities have said was once the largest drug dealer in Berkshire County. Baxter was convicted in 2004 for two shootings in Pittsfield, one on North Street and the other a drive-by shooting on Wahconah Street. Baxter later pleaded guilty to several drug-related offenses and is now serving a 35- to 45-year sentence in state prison.
Capeless said his office is poised to lead an anti-gang and anti-gun initiative with money that has been set aside in a state supplemental budget. The initiative, he said, will seek to prevent violent gangs from taking hold in Berkshire County and will involve his office, the sheriff's department and every police department in the county.
"The people who have the guns and are willing to use them are drug dealers," Capeless said in an interview. "Unfortunately, that is where most of the extreme violence has come from. We have been concerned for a number of years about attempts to set up shop by various gangs in Berkshire County."
While authorities have been successful in identifying these threats and arresting them, Capeless said, it may only be a matter of time before organized street gangs take root.
"Right now, we are starting to see them make some inroads and get themselves settled here. It is of grave concern that we nip this in the bud," Capeless said.
Attorney Judith Knight
"Travesty of justice exposed"
Sunday, July 23, 2006
To the Editor of THE EAGLE:-
The Berkshire Eagle has distinguished itself in its ongoing coverage of the Bernard Baran travesty. The political courage and journalistic integrity evidenced by your management and staff is truly exceptional, particularly in this era of politically correct journalism. You deserve the praise of your readers and the admiration of your competitors.
A recent article ("Looking ahead to new freedom," July 1) describes the manifest injustice suffered by Baran for 21 years. His humility and absence of rancor tell us much about this man's essential character.
I am privileged to know a number of people who were instrumental in achieving this unconscionably delayed outcome. In many respects, the facts of this case are similar — if not identical — to those of five other cases on which I am currently working as a forensic consultant and expert witness (one in Florida, two in Pennsylvania, one in New York, and one in New Jersey), so I beg to differ with Harvey Silverglate's characterization of this issue as a phenomenon of the '80s.
These cases are, in fact, representative of what continues to occur when entrusted to a dysfunctional, politicized system that has no compunctions about destroying the lives of innocent individuals, their families, and even the children who were allegedly molested. Prosecutor Capeless is just one of many such individuals who need to be exposed and voted out of office if we are to have any hope of restoring some semblance of integrity and respectability to what we describe as "the justice system."
I offer my heartfelt congratulations to Baran's loyal and committed supporters and my admiration to The Berkshire Eagle.
Philadelphia, Pa., July 12, 2006
Howard Fishman is a trial consultant in the areas of child abuse and custody who has qualified as an expert witness in twelve states and Canada. He has served as director of continuing medical education in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and at The Menninger Clinic.
Pittsfield's political inbred, dark prince: Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.! -(below)-
June 06, 2006
Dear Berkshire Eagle & Berkshire Bloggers:
Re: "Bringing privacy issues home" (The Berkshire Eagle's Editorial, Monday, June 05th, 2006): NUCIFORO DOES NOT STAND FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES! The Berkshire Eagle's aforementioned third-rate Editorial states: "A state Senate resolution sponsored by Pittsfield's Andrea Nuciforo challenging provisions of the Patriot Act must be just one part of the effort by our state and federal legislators to fight this undermining of our rights."
Why is The Berkshire Eagle wrong in Jonathan Alan Melle's eyes? The answer is that I, Jonathan A. Melle, am a political activist, and for my exercising of civil liberties in Pittsfield and the Berkshire County area in 1997 & 1998, I was persecuted by state Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., among others, for speaking out against the state's policies to assume the functions of county governments through abolition and state takeover; while at the same time, the state should have been focused on their most expensive and wasteful public works project in the history of the United States of America: THE BIG DIG!
Nuciforo's unsuccessful attempts to put me in JAIL and my father on the unemployment circuit after he worked in the Courts for over 2-1/2 decades shows that Nuciforo's strong-armed actions--persecuting my father and I for exercising our powers of DISSENT--speak louder than any resolution he has recently sponsored for the reinstatement of our lost civil liberties under the heavy-handed Bush II Administration.
I will tell my story against Nuciforo day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, and someday, I hope that my story will be told for ETERNITY! This is the true story of how Nuciforo persecuted Jonathan A. Melle for exercising his civil liberties:
Once again, in the Spring of 1998, state Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo II made secret plans with the Pittsfield Police Department to have me arrested if I stopped by his district office. Nuciforo did so without either the Pittsfield Police Department or himself informing myself and/or my family. Nuciforo illegally told the Pittsfield Police Department that I was threatening him, which was a lie. Moreover, Nuciforo failed to apprise the Pittsfield Police Department that he was the one who threatened me on two occassions prior to his false allegations to the Pittsfield Police Department; with a mean look and long stare in the Summer of 1997 at Judge Spina's promotion ceremony reception; and again in the Fall of 1997 at the North Adams Fall Foliage Parade when Nuciforo broke his parade route to get in my face to intimidate me with his then-Aide Sara Hathaway at his side. Nuciforo's real goal was to have had me put in the Berkshire County Jail whereby Sheriff Carmen Massimiano II would have seen to it that his Jailer staff would have tortured me! The City of Pittsfield & the Berkshire County Jail should thank their lucky stars that they did not go through with Nuciforo & Sheriff Massimiano's insidious plans to have me arrested, jailed & tortured. Furthermore, during the Spring of 1998, Nuciforo, again unsuccessfully, tried to get my father fired from his long-standing state job in the Courts through a Kafkaesque Ethics Commission Complaint in Boston.
Once again, I am appalled that, after I have apprised The Berkshire Eagle many times before about Nuciforo's attempt to Jail me after he threatened me on two previous occassions, this third-rate newspaper that gives news journalism a bad name would state in print that Nuciforo is a sincere coordinator and leader for civil liberties. My true story proves both the Eagle and Nuciforo to be WRONG! AND I will always speak my good conscience as long as I live!
Jonathan A. Melle
Tuesday, 29 May, 2007
RE: Cliff Nilan drove in the wedge -- I may become HOMELESS!
Dear Berkshire Bloggers, Politicians, News Media, & the People:
Pittsfield, Massachusetts' "Good Old Boy" Cliff Nilan drove in the wedge between my parents and myself. His many phone calls to my dad have paid off. Cliff Nilan is best friends with Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. and is part of the "Good Old Boy Network" that tried to ruin my dad and put me in jail in the Spring of 1998. Moreover, Cliff Nilan has listened as Denis E. Guyer has spread the most vicious, false and slanderous rumors against me, making me appear as criminal, disturbed and predatory. As Cliff Nilan has said on many occasions, I will say his bullyish quote now, "I KNOW!" Indeed, I know that if I am homeless because of the power play on my dad's insecurities -- another political persecution by the Pittsfield Political Machine against my father -- that the Pittsfield Good Old Boy Network will be wringing their hands with abuse and schadenfreude. I know that if I become homeless, this is another way for ASSHOLES like Cliff Nilan to get at my father with teeth. Cliff Nilan has once again done the dirty work for the Pittsfield Political Machine ran by the Good Old Boys' Network. Congratulations to all of my enemies for the miserable life of Cliff Nilan and his corrupted inner circle of lousy Pols. The only difference between the powerful and the powerless -- Cliff Nilan and Jonathan Melle -- is the ultimate judgment we will all receive. While I go down now, and Cliff Nilan is rewarded for his dirty work now, my soul will be saved by God, while Cliff Nilan's soul will be punished by the lesser powers that gives him his political power on Earth. I will always speak my good conscience as long as I live!
Jonathan A. Melle
May 24, 2005
I believe that the Berkshire County Sheriff is a corrupt politician and should be opposed. Last year, when I intended to oppose Nuciforo in the Democratic Primary, Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., was very intimidating to me. On several occassions when I was gathering signatures to get on the ballot, he refused to sign. I asked one of his office workers to serve on my committee and he said that Carmen would fire him if he did. I have sat in a room where I heard Carmen talking about political adversaries and he used some of the most foul language to disparage and demean those who opposed him, including a slur to demean one who performs oral sex on a man. I could not believe the garbage that came out of this man's mouth. He uses his power as Sheriff to intimidate and coerce people who participate in politics. I was one of his victims. One of the reasons why I dropped out of the 2004 State Senatorial Democratic Primary and moved to New Hampshire after being a lifelong resident of the Berkshires was due to the pure intimidation of this abhorrent machine politician. Now, I read about his positions on issues online. Carmen has opposed giving the Pittsfield Teachers a contract in his position as Chair of the School Committee. He also supports the full punishment and prosecution of 7 first time drug selling offenders from Great Barrington. Carmen confounds me because he acts in a split personality manner. Sometimes, he is abusive and intimidating; othertimes, he is nice and warm. This machine politician represents everything wrong with someone running a governmental agency or committee in a free country. What scares me more than anything else is that Carmen works for the Berkshire County Judges and Courts. I feel that the county's judicial establishment not only tolerates Massimiano's corrupt leadership, but also cultivates it. I believe that these judges are not putting the proper and ethical checks on their bureaucracies to see that the spirit of the law and liberal government are abided by. I think that the Berkshire County Judicial System is one of authoritarian control with no sense of fairness and equity to the common offender. I think that this trend in Berkshire County is a trend that is taking hold across the country and perhaps has been a reality since the dawn of man. Our country was founded on principles that give every citizen a sense of belonging as citizens. We were founded on finding the right path for the good life. All men should live under God' gift of human liberty. I hope that Carmen is put in check by the County's Judges and that change follows throughout the Berkshire Court System.
Friday, September 16, 2005
Re: My very negative feelings towards Carmen C. Massimiano Jr.
Yesterday afternoon, September 15, 2005, I had the pleasure of eating dinner out with my parents and 3-year-old niece. My dad bumped into another Pittsfield native and they reminisced about their friendship there. During their conversation, they mentioned Sheriff Massimiano and my dad said he was a good guy, among other praises. When my dad’s acquaintance left, I told my dad how I resented him saying such nice things about a person who was so very mean and negative towards me during my 28-years of living in Pittsfield. I mentioned to my dad how Massimiano made it a point to not sign my nomination papers when I wanted to oppose state Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. in the 2004 Democratic Primaries. I said to my dad that he was there at one of those events, and how Massimiano spoke to me in such a put down tone of voice. My dad replied that Massimiano was wrong. I replied to my dad that I cannot choose his friends, nor he mine. I just asked my dad not to praise Massimiano in my presence because I find it distressing and insensitive. My dad said he would respect my wishes. My mom then mentioned Massimiano’s close friend, Cliff Nilan, who works as a Chief Probation Officer in the Berkshire Superior Court. My mom said that my dad and Nilan call each other and their relationship keeps my dad close to Massimiano. Again, I said to my mom that Massimiano is not a nice man. He uses the most foul language and refers to people in vulgar and sexually humiliating words that I did not want to say, but hinted at, such as Massimiano calling one of his adversaries the vulgar slang for one who performs oral sex on a man. My mom said that Massimiano represents a mentality and sample of a debase cultural class. I also told my mom that I don’t have a problem with Cliff Nilan or my dad’s friendship with anyone. I just asked to be left out of it. Actually, I told my mom that I think Nilan is a nice person. I told my mom what I told my dad, and that is she may have her friends, and I may not like them, but to leave me out of it. If I am sitting with them, and Massimiano’s name comes up in the discussion, I would rather not hear about Massimiano. But what they think and do on their own time, away from me, I have no say in. I was just very insulted by my dad’s praises of Massimiano when he was so mean and intimidating to me last year. I concluded my stand by saying that the best way to deal with someone you dislike is to not give him or her any of your time. I said to my parents that I don’t want to talk about Massimiano anymore. I want to move on and enjoy our time and meal together. I am glad my dad was able to understand me, and even more receptive to my mother seeing things the way they really are. I was most thankful for being able to spend quality time with my family.
Jonathan A. Melle
THE BOSTON GLOBE: Op-Ed: ANDREA J. CABRAL
Truancy's social burden
By Andrea J. Cabral, December 25, 2007
IN A fear-weary nation where we daily face one dire prediction after another, I am loath to use extremes to describe any problem. Unfortunately, truancy and dropout rates in Boston merit use of the dreaded descriptor: crisis.
This is not a problem the school system can solve or should have to resolve on its own. There is no question that the public school system needs solid reform. Overcrowded classrooms, the shortage of good teachers, outdated curricula, and the often suffocating effect of the MCAS exams on more innovative and creative coursework are some of the issues that require internal change.
But the roots of the truancy problem are deeply embedded in what happens to children when they are outside the classroom - on the street and, most importantly, in their homes. When it comes to education, too many children are underparented or not being parented at all.
Schools do not keep truancy a secret from parents because they receive notices and get phone calls, e-mails, and invitations to parent-teacher meetings. Students receive report cards with poor grades, and schools send written warnings of impending failure to graduate.
Education doesn't just happen because schools and teachers exist. Parents must demand quality education from their schools, but they must also support, encourage, and nurture education in their homes.
The frequently truant child is a neglected child. Frequent truancy means that, for whatever reason, no one at home is regularly reviewing homework or school projects, checking grades and attendance or staying in touch with teachers.
Any parent who buys a Sony PlayStation but not a computer for their child just doesn't get it. The Suffolk County House of Correction is full of young men who can play video games masterfully, but can't read, comprehend, or write well.
Because the vast majority of affected students in Boston are black or Latino, many of us are afraid to have a candid discussion about the crucial role and responsibility of parents. Whites fear being accused of racism. Blacks and Latinos fear that real issues of disparate resources and race-based historical inequities will be ignored in a rush to shift blame.
I can't afford to be afraid.
Today, my facilities are full of yesterday's truant children who dropped out. Tomorrow, more will reenter Suffolk County's communities, unemployed adults with no money and no stable address. Fear of what might happen is hardly reason to avoid dealing honestly with what is actually happening.
We face an epidemic of poor households headed by single, young women of color, some of whom are undereducated or uneducated, and there is an inexplicable, increasing community acceptance of this family dynamic. We need to confront this and act to change this dynamic and all the reasons for it.
There's a lot we can do right now.
Last month, I held a forum on truancy at Roxbury Community College. The panelists were all stakeholders ready to commit time and combine resources to create effective partnerships with the Boston public school system. We can work with existing truancy programs and create a comprehensive, systemwide program that is sustainable.
Alan Khazei, cofounder of City Year, and David Shapiro, chief executive of the Mass Mentoring Partnership, want to make youth mentors part of mainstream middle and high school student life. Community-based efforts like the Truancy Taskforce led by Representative Elizabeth Malia can provide crucial data and support from grass-roots volunteers. Malia and her colleagues can ensure sustainability with good legislation.
My department has the Choice Program, composed of a trained cadre of corrections officers who make multiple visits to Boston schools, speaking to those in grades five through nine.
These officers teach from an approved curriculum that cautions students on the dangers of drug use and gang involvement and encourages them to make good choices and show respect for themselves and others.
The response to this program from students and teachers has been overwhelming. This year we added a section on civics to the curriculum.
Sheriff Carmen Massimiano of Berkshire County operates a juvenile resource center that is seeing remarkable success. Massimiano, who served on the Pittsfield School Committee, has seen the clear connection between truancy, delinquency, and escalating criminal behavior.
He converted a vacant jail into a truancy center and created a partnership including the school district, the juvenile courts, the sheriff's department, and social services. Together, they use the resource center to rescue truant children from the street, bring them up to speed on their classwork, and mainstream them back into school. The courts ensure parental accountability and social services provide assistance with problems at home that cause problems at school. A program like that could work in Boston.
I devote a substantial portion of my budget and staff resources to inmate educational, vocational, substance abuse, and reentry programs.
In the past two years, one of our programs - the Common Ground Institute - has educated and trained some 270 inmates in marketable vocational skills and found jobs for 90 of them with employers who know they have criminal histories. Programs such as this increase opportunity and self-esteem and reduce recidivism. I will continue to keep them viable and effective.
The problem is no one should have to come to jail before they get an education or find a job, particularly when annual housing costs per inmate exceed $30,000. Back-end solutions are much better than nothing, but the state where public education began can do much better.
We should be willing to invest at least as much time and money to educate our children before they commit crimes, when the choice is ours, as we are afterward, when the choice is theirs and we can only hope and pray they make the right one.
Andrea J. Cabral is sheriff of Suffolk County.
THE BOSTON GLOBE - Letters
"We got the picture on social welfare"
December 28, 2007
ONE PICTURE is of course worth a thousand words, and the picture of the formerly homeless man on Page B1 of your Christmas Day edition ("Homes for the holiday") with his PlayStation is a startling amplification of Andrea J. Cabral's invectives on the same day's op-ed page ("Truancy's social burden").
To those of us of good cheer this holiday season, the picture tells us that "the system works" and the poorest in our society can find safe, warm, and decent places to live, to enjoy even the small luxuries which our society finds normal.
Others, in the light of a colder reason, will understand that Cabral speaks the simple truth: "Any parent who buys a Sony PlayStation but not a computer for their child just does not get it . . . Tomorrow, more [of these children now adults] will reenter Suffolk County's communities, unemployed adults with no money and no stable address"
Our human services system often seems to work like the kindness of strangers - well-intentioned actions delivered with little human involvement.
The old system, before government social welfare, was based on human connections through ward politics to deliver the goods - and the goodies - necessary for survival and for comfort.
Perhaps we need a new system, based on just distribution of resources, like the social welfare systems of today but with the community empowerment that was the ward politics of last century. But that only works when those individuals who benefit become involved if not in programs of self improvement, then simply getting out the vote. City Councilor Felix Arroyo might have a few things to say about this.
One picture tells it all. Would that it had been this man studying for his GED or his electrician's license or even, for that matter, simply reading the Globe.
Thank you also for publishing Cabral's column. I only wish it had been published as a sidebar next to the picture.
"Berkshire County jail receives health accreditation"
TheTranscript.com (North Adams Transcript Online)
Saturday, December 29, 2007
PITTSFIELD — Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano Jr. has announced that his department's ongoing commitment to high-quality health care has earned the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction re-accreditation from the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC).
The Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction has been accredited by the commission since 1980, and this marks the third accreditation for the Cheshire Road facility, which opened in 2001.
The three-year accreditation, good through 2010, resulted from a two-day survey by the commission of the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction in September. The mission of the NCCHC is to improve the quality of health care in jails, prisons and juvenile confinement facilities. The process uses external peer review to determine whether correctional facilities meet its standards in the provision of health care services.
The survey covered all aspects of medical care at the jail, including emergency responsiveness, access to health care, quality assurance, chronic care programs, staff education, mental health services, infectious disease control, pharmacy services, dietary services, environmental standards, dental care, care for female patients, substance abuse treatment and record keeping.
Dr. Richard Clarke, medical director at the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction, said the commission's report "highlighted cooperation among various departments of the sheriff's office to achieve not only accreditation, but ongoing effective medical care."
Clarke credited the efforts of Nancy Pieraccini, medical office manager, and Lt. Katherine Sonsini, compliance officer, for their effective oversight of compliance with all health-care standards. He also credited Capt. Cynthia Love, nurse supervisor, and the entire nursing department.
The accreditation report, sent to the sheriff by NCCHC Director of Accreditation Judith A. Stanley, said the survey team "noted good cooperation between custody and health staff." The surveyors, she said, "commented that the facility has a progressive approach to health care and treatment of inmates."
The surveyors were impressed with the importance placed on service integration and health care standards by administrative staff at the facility."
"We have had this accreditation since 1980, and it is a real credit to the medical staff for their tremendous efforts on a daily basis to provide quality health care," Massimiano said. "I congratulate Dr. Clarke, Capt. Love and all the medical staff for their outstanding work."
According to the NCCHC report, "communication among different disciplines is highly valued at this facility, and there seems to be a continuous effort to enhance a collaborative approach to inmate care and treatment.
"The surveyors noted excellent communication and cooperation between the medical and mental health staff, as well as with the staff of the programs and treatment unit."
"The Sawin acquittal"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Kyle W. Sawin's acquittal on drug-dealing charges yesterday in Berkshire Superior Court suggests that the District Attorney's office will be hard-pressed to get any convictions of those collected in the drug sting last year in Great Barrington. The office may well have brought, in the words of District Attorney David Capeless, a "compelling and very credible case," but jurors are feeling human beings, who may never be sold on a conviction knowing what is in store for the defendant if found guilty.
Mr. Sawin was found not guilty of distributing marijuana and committing a drug violation within a 1,000-foot school zone two months after his first case ended in a mistrial when the jury deadlocked. Jurors may have bought the defense's argument that the defendant was entrapped by a member of the county's Drug Task Force and/or it was uncomfortable with the mandatory two-year jail sentence for convictions of a school-zone offense. Three men, who were also part of the original 17 netted on drug charges in the Taconic parking lot, testified against Mr. Sawin in the hope that their own two-year mandatory minimum charges would be dropped, which raised the sentencing law to the attention of jurors.
The Draconian nature of the school-zone law simply cannot be ignored. It makes no distinction between first and habitual offenders or the amount of drugs sold. It ties the hands of judges, who should be allowed to consider the differences in drug cases brought before them. It is clearly designed to protect school children, and while the Taconic lot is within 1,000-feet of two schools, the undercover operation took place in summer. It's obvious unfairness will loom over any of the trials brought because of the Great Barrington sting.
First-time drug dealers should be penalized through some combination of probation, counseling and community service that will set them straight without ruining the lives of the young people charged. However, the district attorney's all-or-nothing strategy, built as it is upon a bad law, means they will escape punishment and the counseling they clearly need.
In essence, the Great Barrington sting and prosecution has accomplished nothing, other than perhaps scaring marijuana dealers out of downtown Great Barrington. The Berkshires do have major drug problems, but they involve drugs like heroin or crack, which can kill users and whose dealers and users often resort to violence.
Juror Jonathan Nix of Becket expressed outrage that so many government resources were put into "such a trivial case with such meager returns." We hope the result of yesterday's trial, and the likelihood of similar decisions if more of the Great Barrington sting cases go to trial, will prompt Mr. Capeless to focus more of his department's efforts on the serious drug problems that afflict the Berkshires.
"Schools discuss dropout solutions"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, February 08, 2008
PITTSFIELD — The voices belonged to county residents between the ages of 17 and 31. Their comments illustrated the various reasons why youngsters drop out of school.
"I wanted to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it."
"I was picked on pretty bad."
"Everyone was against me."
"I left Taconic. ...Too many fights."
"This is my 12th incarceration."
"My family is full of addicts. I don't think I had a chance when it comes down to it."
The interviews with these young men and women were included on a video shown yesterday at a forum designed to discuss a community approach to addressing the chronic dropout problem in the Pittsfield public schools.
Some 120 people from the city's public schools, social service agencies, job training programs, the mayor's office, and several law enforcement agencies attended the four-hour forum at Berkshire Hills Country Club.
Assistant Superintendent of Schools Howard J. Eberwein III, who organized yesterday's event, said the purpose of the forum was to raise awareness, clarify the number of resources that are available in Pittsfield, and identify what each group is doing to help youngsters through school.
"The goal of this meeting is to take a first step towards making a plan and a response to the problem at hand," Eberwein said at the beginning of the forum.
The participants discussed the dropout problems on both a local and national level, participated in group exercises, and discussed several approaches that have worked to keep students in school.
Pittsfield's dropout rate, which was as high as 8 percent in 2003-04, has slowly decreased over the last three years as programs have begun to address the problem.
Preliminary figures released by the state Department of Education last month indicate that Pittsfield's dropout rate for the 2006-07 academic year will be 4.6 percent, down a full percentage point from two years ago. A total of 122 students dropped out of the Pittsfield public schools last year, according to information released at the forum.
Even as the dropout rate has decreased, Pittsfield's four-year graduation rate remains far below the state average. According to figures recently released by the state Department of Education, only 66 percent of the students who entered the city's public high schools and the Hibbard Alternative School in the fall of 2003 graduated four years later, in June 2007. The state average is 81 percent.
That number is also a slight drop from Pittsfield's unadjusted four-year graduation rate of 68 percent registered by the class of 2006. The state DOE began compiling four year graduation rates for state school districts last year.
Superintendent of Schools Katherine E. Darlington characterized the city's dropout problem as "an ongoing piece of work that we're engaged in."
"I find that it's not tidy work," Darlington said. "It's untidy because it deals with many different types of children."
The forum was sponsored by the city's public schools through a $2.8 million, three-year federal grant that the School Department and the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department jointly received two years ago to create safe learning environments. The Sheriff's Department has used a portion of its funding to sponsor programs at the Juvenile Resource Center at the former county jail on Second Street.
Berkshire County Sheriff and School Committee member Carmen C. Massimiano Jr. said the number of inmates in the county jail has increased from 65 to more than 400 since he became sheriff in 1978, and that the majority of the incarcerated are high school dropouts.
"What it tells you is that dropouts from high schools in many instances have a way of dropping in to correctional institutions," Massimiano said.
"Sheriffs often don't get involved in community programs," he said. "But we did it to stem the tide."
To reach Tony Dobrowolski: TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com; (413) 496-6224
Chatham, NY Reply »
|Report Abuse |#1 Friday Feb 8
As a retired 38 year high school teacher from eastern Massachusetts, I've always wondered why the hue and cry about the drop out rate. School is NOT for everyone between the ages of 16 and 18. The state laws ALLOW students to drop out at 16.
A drop out can seek further schooling later on when he or she is ready to do so. Jumping through hoops to keep the drop out in school most often results in a compromised education when the effort succeeds. And, it ALWAYS drains away much needed money that could be better spent in other educational areas. Perhaps making a concerted effort to help the drop out transition to a job would be a better way to spend the taxpayer's money.
Springfield, MA Reply »
|Report Abuse |#2 Friday Feb 8
I wasn't ready for school when I was younger. I worked manufacturing jobs until I was old enough to finish school. Now I have a four year degree and can't find a job as easily as I did when I was a dropout.
Sabor Bar & Grill
"City, state cite bar & grill: Liquor license suspended for 90 days"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
PITTSFIELD — If this were a baseball game, Sabor Bar & Grill would be down to its last strike with the Licensing Board.
Both the city and the state have suspended Sabor's liquor license for short periods of time during the last two years, and late-night problems involving the bar and its patrons date back to 2005 when it was known as Club Red. Sabor is located at 17 Wendell Ave.
But after listening to more complaints brought forward by police during a show/cause hearing on Sabor's all-alcoholic restaurant license, the Licensing Board on Monday issued a 90-day ban of the establishment's ability to sell alcoholic beverages after 10 p.m. every day but Saturday.
"If there's an infraction," said visibly agitated board member Robert Quadrozzi, "don't bother coming back."
Quadrozzi and fellow board member Albert "Butch" Pisani both voted in favor of the ban. Chairman Carmen C. Massimiano Jr. was absent.
Under state law, the Licensing Board has the authority to modify, suspend or revoke an establishment's alcohol license.
Sabor includes a restaurant and bar that are part of one business, Daja Inc., that has one liquor license, held by Dana Carpenter. Sabor's liquor license problems have involved the bar — not the restaurant.
The 90-day ban was suggested by Sabor's attorney, Thomas J. Hamel of Pittsfield, as a way of helping the bar "get under control" a situation involving patrons who arrive in the early morning hours after the city's other establishments have closed. He asked the board to allow Sabor to continue serving alcohol after 10 p.m. on Saturdays, which is when the establishment holds "Latin Night."
"There's no problem with that crowd," Hamel said.
Both Lt. Katherine O'Brien, who presented the Police Department complaints, and Ward 2 Councilor Louis A. Costi said they were willing to accept Hamel's suggestion.
"We did a lot of work on the downtown area to make it nice," said Costi, whose ward includes Sabor. "I was going to suggest that you treat them harshly, quite honestly, because they're always here.
"If attorney Hamel hadn't come up with that idea, I wanted some strong sanctions," Costi said.
The complaints filed by police against Sabor involved a stabbing, a domestic incident that drew a large crowd and led to a police officer being assaulted, and an underage woman with no identification who told police she had been drinking at Sabor after being arrested for drunken driving. The majority of the complaints were filed in December.
None of those incidents took place inside the bar, but most occurred either in the street outside the club or in a nearby parking lot. The stabbing took place after police observed a crowd "dispersing from within the restaurant," according to the police report.
According to restaurant employee Digna Gonzalez, the club had hosted a private party that night.
The two incidents that occurred in the bar involved patrons, mainly club employees, whom police spotted inside the establishment long after closing time. One of those incidents occurred at 4:52 a.m. on Dec. 9, 2007, O'Brien said. According to the police report, bar owner Paul Saldana told police that he was having some relatives over and they were using the bar instead of his residence, which is in the same building.
The stabbing incident, which occurred at 1:43 a.m. on Dec. 21, involved all nine Pittsfield Police officers who were assigned to the overnight shift that night, O'Brien said.
"We have the capability, but we don't have the manpower to deal with this kind of incident on a regular basis," O'Brien said.
Gonzalez said she called the police. Hamel said that the stabbing incident involved five people from Springfield.
"It's inconsequential where they come from," Quadrozzi said. "We're not having this problem with anyplace else."
"I really don't think you people get the definition of what's going on," Pisani said.
The state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission suspended Sabor's liquor license for 13 days in February 2007 after investigators found 13 bottles of alcoholic beverages inside the club that contained partially torn package store labels.
The Licensing Board suspended Sabor's license for 30 days in September 2006 after the club's owner failed to heed warnings regarding overcrowding that had come to the board's attention the previous month.
To reach Tony Dobrowolski: email@example.com, (413) 496-6224.
Lets see what happens when someone comes out of spice drunk,see if the coppers follow them home, thats the issue, you could put a copper outside any bar and arrest them for drunk driving, what do they think people do in bars, play tittily winks, THEY DRINK, licensing board, its your job to enforce prevention, not, after the fact driving stops for sobriety checks. I get sick of hearing about these warnings, all bars cannot prevent drinking, and shouldnt be responsible for how much they serve, hell .some patrons drink before they enter a joint, so how do you measure the responsibility of the bar, give them a sobriety check when they come in the bar, get real.
NOTE: Tom Ellis is one of Carmen Massimiano's best friends. Tom Ellis once had a big picture of Carmen Massimiano & him hanging on his restaurant wall.
NOTE: Tom Ellis built his touristy restaurant Elizabeth's on top of a toxic waste site full of cancer-causing PCBs that GE left behind in Pittsfield. I hope people leave there only with a full belly.
Gerry and Lynn Denmark of Pittsfield have a view of the kitchen, and chef/owner Tom Ellis preparing food, at Elizabeth's Restaurant in Pittsfield.
By Sally Patterson, Special to The Eagle
Article Last Updated: 08/02/2005
PITTSFIELD -- Elizabeth's is one of Pittsfield's fairly well-kept culinary secrets. Forgive me, if you are among its loyal following who don't want it publicized.
Why is it not more widely known? For one, because of its pretty unlikely location -- a lone white house with a big porch out in the industrial reaches of East Street, just beyond the Newell Street intersection; for another, because it is not listed in the restaurant section of the Yellow Pages, and for a third, because it doesn't advertise.
It is the kind of place that earns its almost-always-repeat clientele by word of mouth.
I owe that favor to my friend Billie, who, many years ago, fed me a slice of memorable asparagus pizza that was better warmed over the next day than most pizza is just out of the oven. That was back when the place was a pizzeria -- with homemade crusts and rigorously fresh ingredients.
A couple of years ago, proprietors Tom and the eponymous Elizabeth Ellis switched to a more sit-down menu emphasizing international appetizers, a handful of pastas and daily specials that might include authentic bouillabaisse, Tuscan white bean stew or braised ribs.
The attention to the best ingredients has not changed, and as many as possible are bought locally.
The decor is not fancy. It runs to colorful art prints, snapshots of family and friends, a few beautiful travel and cookery books, a few fanciful mobiles.
Glass-topped tables, paper napkins and a hodgepodge of china might not appeal to those in search of swank, but they are fine for the people of all ages who come for the generous food, reasonable prices and genuine welcome.
The open kitchen is the heart -- and most of the ground floor -- of the place. Tom Ellis reigns there by day, doing most of the cooking, and Liz Ellis takes over at night, finishing the dishes and keeping them moving.
This leaves Tom the role of host, for which he is amply suited. He brings food, adjusts tables and fills in wherever needed, but most of all he obviously enjoys talking to people, helping them order, basking in their compliments, and freely offering up culinary and other lore.
When we visited, he got to talking about poetry with our table neighbors and ran off in mid-conversation to fetch a slim volume of Richard Wilbur's works, enjoining the guests to borrow the book and bring it back when they came in again.
Most of the tables are upstairs, and it is a testimony to the staff's dedication to hospitality that they are unflaggingly friendly even after all of those trips up and down. The more so because they bring each dish when it is ready, rather than all together, which might be disconcerting to those whose orders come later were it not customary to dip in and share whatever is on the table.
Dinner starts off with a hunk of dark organic sourdough from Berkshire Mountain Bakery and a bowl of vividly green Tuscan olive oil for dunking. Next comes the café's signature salad. It arrives by the oversized bowlful and includes whatever inspires Tom Ellis.
Ours had spankingly fresh mesclun, feta, chickpeas, carrots, chunks of apple and kiwi, golden raisins, kidney beans, slivers of red cabbage and pepper, all tossed in a tart balsamic dressing that picked up an extra oomph from a sprinkle of pecorino cheese. I am sure that the salads alone keep people coming back.
My daughter enjoyed the nippy heat of her soup -- a bisque of tomatoes and cream with coconut milk and Jamaican spices ($2.95). Tom Ellis also makes variations on this soup with Mexican or Indian flavorings, as the spirit moves him.
The simple brilliance of my oven-roasted wild mushrooms ($6.95) lay in the mingling of very good olive oil with the mushroom liquor exuded in baking, set off with caramelized onion and herbes de Provence. A goodly company of meaty shiitake, oyster and portabella fungi basked in this heady amalgam.
My husband's starter, Lizzie's Baked Polenta ($6.95), was recommended with one of the menu's amusingly suggestive asides: "Your first kiss should be this good."
It certainly was satisfying and enough for two hungry mouths to linger over. A soup-plate-size portion of tender cornmeal polenta napped in melted mozzarella was surrounded by tomato and mushroom broth and more of the caramelized onions. The latter are slow-roasted in oil for a couple of hours until they are deep brown with a concentrated mellowness that adds depth to a number of the dishes here.
Our pasta entrées (The three of us shared two, both $15.50, including the salad.) were based on penne, exactly al dente. One had a bold puttanesca sauce, hearty with bits of tomato, kalamata olives, garlic, capers, anchovies and hot peppers that nestled invitingly in the tube-shaped noodles.
The other was an unctuous meltdown of imported gorgonzola cheese and fresh cream. Heavy and clingy, it would have seemed a bit less intensely rich surfacing a long flat pasta, but this minor cavil aside, it was greatly enjoyed by my family of blue-cheese enthusiasts.
The bill of fare doesn't emphasize desserts because diners are usually too well satisfied (not to use the grosser term, stuffed) with earlier courses to want any. However, those who need a sweet to finish a meal will not be disappointed. We shared a Belgian chocolate truffle cake with a dense, dark filling and a denser, darker ganachelike coating. Very rich, bittersweet and unabashedly chocolaty.
Our only complaint was that it was served too cold. The chocolate would have been far more yielding and delicious at room temperature. The café also usually has a choice of cheesecakes, in flavors that change seasonally. These delectables are made by nuns at the New Skeet monastery in Cambridge, N.Y., whose other specialty is raising dogs.
My husband's selection was a creamy hybrid of lush cheesecake and pumpkin pie with a lightly gingered crumb crust (each dessert was $3.95).
Our enjoyment of the desserts would have been even better had the coffee been -- as the menu so floridly recommended it -- "black like the night, bitter like death and hot like love."
It was, unfortunately, uninspiringly brown, supermarket variety and not very strong at that. Our meal cried out for a killer espresso or European roast or a thick Turkish brew.
Alas, even "café heaven" has an imperfection.
Elizabeth's, 1264 East St., Pittsfield, 01201. Tel. (413) 448-8244.
Style: Eclectic "world food" café, mostly Mediterranean.
Hours: 5 to 9 daily during summer; closed Sunday and Monday in winter.
Prices: Soups, $2.95 and up; appetizers/salads, $5.95 to $7.95; entrees, $14. 75 to $15.50; desserts, $3.95.
Bar: Wine only.
Credit Cards: None, checks or cash only.
Reservations: Parties of four or more. On weekends there can be a wait.
Dec. 18, 2002
The Boston Globe, Op-Ed
MICHAEL G. BELLOTTI AND JOSEPH D. MCDONALD
"The case of the real estate market and the sheriffs"
By Michael G. Bellotti and Joseph D. McDonald, April 12, 2008
COUNTY sheriffs face a long list of issues in operating correctional facilities: drugs, gangs, overcrowding, healthcare, and mental illness, to name a few. But one of their worries shouldn't be keeping a close eye on the local real estate market.
Currently, seven of the state's 14 county sheriffs receive their funding from the state budget. The remaining seven are funded through a convoluted county system that relies on revenue from a tax on real estate transactions.
That unpredictable revenue stream is the reason sheriffs have been asking the state to shift to a better funding mechanism. Governor Deval Patrick has filed legislation that would transfer funding of sheriff's offices in Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Nantucket, Norfolk, Plymouth, and Suffolk counties to the state budget.
This legislation provides sheriffs with the accountability tools to oversee their facilities efficiently. Currently in seven counties, sheriffs' operating budgets are subject to the whims of the real estate market; the other seven sheriffs know at the beginning of their fiscal year exactly how much money they can rely on.
Having a correctional facility dependent on the vagaries of the sagging real estate market is akin to it being tied to a financial anchor. For example, Norfolk and Plymouth County sheriff's offices project they will experience 17 percent and 33 percent decreases, respectively, in deeds excise tax funds since 2005, resulting in millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Last year, the plummeting deeds excise tax revenues forced the Norfolk County Sheriff's Office to borrow items such as toilet paper, soap, medication cups, tongue depressors, and saline solution from other sheriff's offices. In addition, the Norfolk County Sheriff's Office was within a few weeks of being shut off by its pharmacy vendor, which provides medication to approximately 68 percent of the inmate population. All this occurred after the Norfolk County Sheriff's Office reduced personnel costs through attrition, layoffs, job freezes, and weeklong furloughs.
The Plymouth County Sheriff's Office was planning a "doomsday budget" last year if the state had not rescued it through a supplemental budget. A correction officer academy would have been postponed; inmate reentry programs designed to stop the turnstile of "catch-and-release" corrections would have been scaled back; GED and anti-domestic violence classes would have been modified or cancelled.
Patrick's legislation would eliminate the guesswork when it comes to planning and implementing sheriff's department budgets. Some adherents of the old form of county government have questioned the feasibility of the plan. But there are precedents for its success.
Little more than a quarter-century ago, county district attorney's offices similarly transferred to the state budget while retaining their autonomy and remaining accountable to the electorate.
With half of the state's duly elected sheriffs already funded by the state budget, there is little reason to believe the remaining seven would be hindered from carrying out their work in the best interest of the public.
These budget reforms should be made for the seven sheriffs still under the county system, regardless of whether the real estate market is good or bad. Concerns about details such as the fate of revenues currently generated independently by sheriff's offices should not be allowed to overshadow the ultimate goal of sound fiscal planning.
In all financial situations, there is a bottom line. In this case, the bottom line is that the current county funding system is no way to run a public safety agency.
Michael G. Bellotti, a Democrat, is the sheriff of Norfolk County. Joseph D. McDonald, a Republican, is the sheriff of Plymouth County.
"Sheriff to hire new chief: Mayor recuses himself from task"
By Matt Carroll, (Boston) Globe Staff, April 17, 2008
To avoid an ethics conflict, Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch has turned the selection of a new police chief over to Norfolk County Sheriff Michael G. Bellotti, who will announce as early as today people he is tapping for a search committee.
Bellotti did confirm two names on the committee: Police Chief James Hussey of Cohasset and Police Chief Richard G. Wells Jr. of Milton. He said the group might also include a community activist or someone who works with children, a businessman, and someone with an education or human resources background. The panel will have up to five members.
Bellotti was picked by Koch to conduct the search because Koch's brother-in-law - Police Captain Paul Keenan - is one of three Civil Service candidates for the job. Koch is married to Keenan's sister.
Koch's office consulted the State Ethics Comission, which said the mayor could not be involved. So Koch called Bellotti and asked him to put together a committee and select the new chief. Bellotti will not be paid for his work.
"They have left it totally up to me," Bellotti said. "The conversation was about 60 seconds long." He has also spoken about the process with the city attorney.
Bellotti said the committee would devise a method for rating the candidates, interview them, and seek the views of police officers. The new chief will be picked from within the department.
Bellotti said that he had no self-imposed deadline for picking a chief, but that one would be named by June 30, when Chief Robert F. Crowley retires. The 61-year-old has been on the Quincy force since 1972 and chief for four years.
Crowley said: "I feel the mayor made the right decision . . . and made an excellent choice in appointing Michael Bellotti to head the selection process. There is no question we have the talent within the department to run the department."
Koch is in the unusual position of being cut out of one of the most important personnel decisions a mayor can make, but said, "It is what it is." Koch and Bellotti described themselves as acquaintences, but not close friends.
Koch expressed confidence that whoever is the new chief will be an asset to the city. "We have three excellent candidates."
The three candidates, all police captains, are:
Allan Gillan, 48. He has 22 years on the force, and earned the highest score on the exam. He is in charge of night patrols and the motorcycle unit, and is responsible for what happens between 4 p.m. through 8 a.m. Gillan has spent most of his career in the patrolman's unit, but was also a motorcycle officer.
Keenan, 49. He has 25 years on the force, and is in charge of the daytime patrol unit. He coordinates events such as the Flag Day and Christmas parades. Keenan is the chairman of the committee that reorganized the department's geographic sectors, so that officer workloads are shared more equally.
Michael Miller, 44. He has been on the force for 22 years - he started the same day Gillan did - and tied with Keenan on the test score. He has worked on patrols and in the detective bureau, and is in charge of the prosecutor's office and assigned to Quincy District Court and Norfolk Superior.
Matt Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Postmaster moves on"
By Jenn Smith, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Saturday, May 03, 2008
RICHMOND — Mike Perkins may be one of the most popular guys in 01254.
For those of you who don't know, that's the zip code for Richmond, and Perkins' presence as postmaster will be missed in the center of town, judging by his fan base there.
After 34 years of service, the last decade of which was spent in town, this devotee to post and philanthropy is retiring from the mailroom.
"I am grateful to have been able to spend 34 years in the same organization," Perkins told a crowd of well-wishers who gathered yesterday afternoon for his send-off.
More than 50 people, including Berkshire Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano Jr. and District Attorney David Capeless, packed the front of the post office parking lot.
Perkins, a Pittsfield resident, will be moving on to take a position in the shipping and receiving department at Berkshire County Jail & House of Corrections.
Lee resident Rod Drees, formerly the Monterey postmaster, has been promoted into Perkins' place.
A number guests from afar, including other regional postmasters and Terry Bruso, acting manager of U.S. Post Office Operations, attended the event. Even part-time Richmond resident Gov. Deval L. Patrick sent a dignitary and citation on his behalf.
The event was organized by West Road resident Mike Kelly, who, Perkins said, has come to the post office every day.
"The center of Richmond is the post office, and Mike's the guy who's made it special," said Kelly.
Kelly described Perkins as a people person, whether it be in taking the time to personally help someone with a parcel or giving out lollipops to children.
Perkins is also known for his other acts of giving, such as hosting an annual food and goods drive for the Salvation Army or raising benefit funds through running in the Relay for Life and multiple Boston Marathons.
His champion cause, however, is in working with Richmond Consolidated School to benefit the Jimmy Fund.
Yesterday, Paul Dowd and Joe Breault, heads of the Berkshire Jimmy Fund, presented a plaque to Perkins.
In turn, Perkins presented a check comprised of donations from the folks of Richmond in the amount of $4,806 to benefit the Jimmy Fund in Perkins' name.
The retiring postmaster said he was overwhelmed by the support of the town and the industry from which he said he's learned a great lesson: "It's about interaction. In life, the most important things aren't things, they're people."
To reach Jenn Smith: email@example.com, (413) 496-6239.
"Perkins delivered the goods"
By Brian Sullivan, The Berkshire Eagle
Thursday, May 08, 2008
It was a very nice sendoff last week for Richmond postmaster Mike Perkins, a city resident who put in 34 years in the U.S. Postal Service, spending much of that time working in West Stockbridge and Richmond.
Mike's old school, a salt-of-the-earth type who makes you feel better just by being around him. I know, because I went through three years of school with Mike at Pittsfield High, challenged him on occasion on the city sandlots, and with The Eagle, helped chronicle his many fundraising efforts, most of which were tied to the 10 Boston Marathons in which he ran.
Mike, who has been buoyed over the years by his beautiful wife, Celeste, and their two wonderful children, Mike and Kristen, started his new job at the Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction in the shipping and receiving department on Monday.
Mike will officially be under the gaze of the sherriff, Carmen C. Massimiano Jr., who runs the show at the new jail. He met Carmen in the old days at the West Stockbridge post office; Carmen's mother lived in that town and he would often pick up her mail at that location.
I asked Mike if, when he was young, he saw the mailman delivering and thought it would make for a great way of life.
"As a kid, I wanted to play center field for the Red Sox," Mike recalled.
It was the same for me, except it was the Yankees who I hoped would sign me up for their center-field duties. Neither of us, I'm sure, ever kicked around the idea of someday growing up and being a postal worker.
I have no great memories of these people, at least the ones who brought mail to my house. I think it's safe to say I was either at school, work or sleeping when the mail arrived. Still, there was a stretch of time when my Sports Illustrated would arrive, a few days late, with some crinkled pages. And, I would shake out the pretzel crumbs before I read the magazine, pretty sure that maybe my eyes weren't the first on the pages.
I had a hunch that Mr. Mailman might have been a sports fan, but I never pursued the point. I was happy just to get the magazine.
Mike, meanwhile, saw his job change greatly over the years. Computers are now part of the post office landscape, and while the Richmond office remained a cozy venue, technology did begin to take over.
"I couldn't even call myself a professional stamp-licker," Mike said with a laugh. "Remember those stamps? That used to be what they called us. Now stamps have that adhesive."
Yes, I remember those old stamps. I used to watch my mother do her mailing every once in a while. She would put a very damp cloth into a cup and press the stamp onto it before taking it off and putting it on the envelope.
I believe it was my mother who also taught me — and I'm sure thousands of others do the same thing — to reopen the slot on the mailbox after you dropped the letters in. Just to be sure, she would tell me. So I still do that. I put the letters in the mailbox, hear them most of the time hit bottom, but still open the slot to make sure there wasn't one still stuck.
There should be a word that describes this phobia. I'm as sure to open that mail slot a second time as I am to reach into a loaf of bread and take the middle slices. Raise your hand if you reach halfway down the loaf to pull out your sandwich bread.
Mike will still get up in the morning and get his coffee at Joann's on Elm Street. That won't change, he said.
"I'll just have to remember now to head north instead of south after that," he said. "But I am a creature of habit."
Mike didn't think about becoming a postmaster when he was a kid growing up on Springside Avenue and playing ball with the Wilks, Flynns and Sturmas on the former Crane School playground. But we all end up somewhere, and it turned out pretty well for Mike, who, on occasion, was able to meet the governor in person.
"A good guy," said Mike of Deval L. Patrick, a part-time Richmond resident. "Still, I couldn't imagine myself ever talking to Mitt Romney or even someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger."
Mike delivered more than the mail in his wonderful career in South County. He delivered humor, understanding and helped make his office a warm and friendly meeting place.
It's a job you don't dream about as a child. But someone has to do it, and Pittsfield's Mike Perkins did it very well for a very long time.
Brian Sullivan is an Eagle editor and longtime Pittsfield resident.
"Jail guard admits to sex with inmates: Ex-officer pleads guilty to engaging in relations with inmates and gets more than a year in prison"
By Conor Berry, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, May 08, 2008
PITTSFIELD — In Berkshire Superior Court yesterday, Raymond M. "Mickey" Dunham Jr.'s family and friends shared fond memories of a good boy who went on to become an even better father. But not even the support of a local Catholic priest or anecdotes about the big-hearted Dunham, who still shovels his grandmother's driveway each winter, could erase a critical mistake.
A mistake that ultimately cost Dunham, a former major with the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department, his freedom.
As Dunham's family filled the first few rows of the courtroom, Judge John A. Agostini sentenced Dunham to one year to a year and a day in state prison for engaging in sexual relations with two female inmates at the Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction. The consensual sexual acts occurred on four separate occasions between Sept. 24 and Oct. 8, 2006, prosecutors said.
Dunham, 43, of Dalton, was employed at the Cheshire Road jail at the time. He resigned from the sheriff's department in December 2006, the same month he was indicted on the charges.
Dunham's jury trial began Tuesday, but he quickly informed his defense attorney, Timothy J. Shugrue of Pittsfield, that he would plead guilty to all charges. The plea deal spared his family further public humiliation, said Shugrue, and brought the trial to a rapid conclusion.
Dunham, a former Navy serviceman and a graduate of St. Joseph's Central High School in Pittsfield, has already been embarrassed and tried in the court of public opinion, said Shugrue.
His attorney yesterday read from numerous letters supporting his client, including a message from a local Catholic priest, the Rev. James K. Joyce, pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Pittsfield, who has known Dunham for more than 30 years.
"The Mickey I know is a good guy," Joyce wrote in his letter, "and I respect him."
Shugrue, in his plea for clemency, reminded Agostini that Dunham's felony conviction "is going to follow him around for years to come," making it very difficult for him to secure a good job.
Shugrue requested a five-year probation term for Dunham, noting his client had led an exemplary life prior to these charges, which only came about because of a momentary lapse of good judgment. And that lapse, said Shugrue, has effectively cost Dunham everything — his job, his pension, his credibility, even his spouse. Dunham and his wife — the mother of his two children — are getting divorced.
"He is being punished, and he will continue to be punished," Shugrue said.
Agostini acknowledged the difficulty of sentencing a so-called "member of the family" to prison. According to the judge, Dunham was indeed a member of the extended Berkshire County law-enforcement family, which includes police officers, probation officers, prosecutors, sheriff's officers and even judges.
"I just feel terrible that a member of this broader family has been brought before the court," Agostini said.
However, Agostini said that Dunham's role as a major in the sheriff's department meant that he was "someone of significance, someone who people looked up to." But there was "a breach of trust," said the judge, adding, "I do believe that incarceration is appropriate."
Berkshire Assistant District Attorney Robert W. Kinzer III had asked Agostini to sentence Dunham to two to three years in state prison.
Shugrue asked the judge to grant Dunham a one-week stay, giving the Dalton man an opportunity to celebrate his daughter's birthday and tend to other family matters before his prison sentence begins. The judge agreed to let Dunham surrender before the court next Wednesday at 9 a.m., at which time he will be taken to the state prison processing center in Walpole.
The conviction of a prison or jail guard caught having sex with an inmate is a felony punishable by up to five years in state prison — or up to 20 years in the case of Dunham, who was charged with four counts in connection with four separate incidents involving two inmates. Dunham, who had worked for the sheriff's department for almost 18 years, was suspended in October 2006.
Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano Jr. did not return a phone call from The Eagle yesterday. In the past, however, Massimiano said the charges against Dunham came as "a great shock" to his department.
The allegations surfaced in mid-October 2006 through information that was passed on from inmates to jail staff. Massimiano's department did a preliminary investigation, he said, then turned the matter over to Massachusetts State Police detectives assigned to the office of Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless.
Dunham was one of two officers in charge of the jail's housing units, or pods, where the inmates are kept. He was only in charge of the female unit when the manager of that area was off duty, according to Massimiano.
"The fact that somebody is being held in custody or under sentence does not mean that they lose their dignity as a human being," Capeless said in a phone interview yesterday, while traveling back to the Berkshires from a Boston meeting.
"And victimization like this will not be tolerated, whether it takes place outside in our community or inside the walls of a penal institution," Capeless said. "I hope that — with this plea, this admission of guilt and the closure of this case — that public confidence can be restored."
To reach Conor Berry: firstname.lastname@example.org; (413) 496-6249.
Carmen isnt so inocent himself.They should check out his life a little deeper. Talk to the officers see what they have to say about our so called perfect sherriff.
"Robin Litchfield" wrote:
I think if you show up with 50 cents and hand it to carmen he might get a red face bringing back memories of the little boys that lived down the street from. 50 cents for a sneak peek is pretty good. Just is just one hidden ember people don't know about.
I am confused, there are at least four statements in here about the Sheriff, am I missing something here, what and when did he do?.please reply, whata are you saying, he a **** i thought he was married.
"Pittsfield guard begins sentence"
By Conor Berry, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, May 15, 2008
PITTSFIELD — Honoring a court agreement to delay the start of his state prison sentence for one week, Raymond M. "Mickey" Dunham Jr. returned to Berkshire Superior Court of his own volition yesterday.
Dunham, a former major with the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department, walked into the courtroom a free man. Just minutes later, he was taken away in handcuffs by court officers to begin his incarceration.
The Dalton man officially surrendered himself to the court yesterday, following his conviction last week on charges that he had sex with two female inmates at the Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction, where Dunham was a ranking sheriff's officer.
Judge John A. Agostini ordered Dunham to serve one year to one year and a day in state prison. Yesterday, however, Dunham's attorney, Timothy J. Shugrue, recommended that his client instead serve his sentence at the Hampshire County House of Correction in Northampton.
Defendants generally prefer jail terms over state prison terms, because county jails tend to house less violent offenders serving shorter sentences. Prosecutors had requested that Dunham serve two to three years in prison.
Frederick A. Lantz, a spokesman for Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless, said the judge could make a recommendation to the state Department of Corrections, but the decision ultimately lies with the DOC. It was not immediately clear when — or if — Dunham's incarceration plans might change.
Shugrue originally requested a probation sentence for his client, arguing that Dunham had led an exemplary life prior to the criminal case.
A prison or jail guard convicted of having sex with an inmate can be sentenced to up to five years in prison. Dunham, who was charged with four counts of the crime, could have faced a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
According to prosecutors, Dunham, 43, engaged in consensual sex acts with two women prisoners on four separate occasions between Sept. 24 and Oct. 8, 2006. He resigned from the sheriff's department in December 2006, the same month he was indicted on the charges.
Just as his jury trial was getting under way last week, Dunham informed Shugrue that he would agree to plead guilty to all charges.
"Local officials express shock at diagnosis"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
If anyone knows what it's like to live with cancer, it's Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto, whose wife, Ellen, was diagnosed three years ago.
Asked if he had any words of advice for the family of U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor yesterday, the normally loquacious Ruberto responded with just one word.
Across Berkshire County, those who have known or worked with the 76-year-old Kennedy during his 45-year Senate career reacted to yesterday's diagnosis with a mixture of sadness, disbelief and hope.
"This is like Silvio Conte; deja vu all over again," said North Adams Mayor John Barrett III, recalling the longtime U.S. congressman from Pittsfield who died from complications associated with cancer on Feb. 8, 1991. Barrett said Conte had told him he had cancer a couple of months before he died.
"I couldn't imagine life without Silvio Conte, and it's the same with Ted Kennedy," Barrett said.
Barrett said he learned of Kennedy's condition shortly after the news broke yesterday afternoon. The two men have had a personal relationship, Barrett said, adding that Kennedy called him after his wife, Eileen, died of breast cancer in June 1990.
"It's probably as emotional as I've felt in a long time," Barrett said. "It shocked me the other day by the news that he had a (seizure). He's the kind of person where you feel he'd always be there."
Based on his personal experiences with cancer, Barrett had advice for Kennedy's family.
"They've got to believe," Barrett said. "Everything today is so treatable."
Kennedy's eldest son, Edward M. Kennedy Jr., a health-care attorney and advocate for cancer patients, lost his right leg to a rare form of bone cancer when he was a teenager. The senator has "seen it in his own family," Barrett added. "If any family can understand, it would be that family."
One of Kennedy's closest friends in the Berkshires, Fairview Hospital President Eugene A. Dellea, said he spoke yesterday with the senator's other son, Patrick, a congressman from Rhode Island.
"We're hoping for the best," Dellea said.
Another friend, James Kelly, the president of Kelly Enterprises, has known Kennedy since 1963. Kennedy wanted to ski the Thunderbolt Trail on Mount Greylock, and Kelly said he towed him up the mountain on a snowmobile.
Kennedy and his family also skied regularly at the former Brodie Mountain Ski Area, which Kelly built in 1964.
"I almost fell down," James said, noting his reaction to the news of Kennedy's cancer. "My son just told me."
"This is just terrible news," said Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano Jr. "We've all come to be so dependent on him because he always delivered for us no matter what it is."
Massimiano, who was appointed sheriff in 1978, said he has a political relationship with Kennedy and has always found him to be "very gracious and very kind."
"He has always spoken for the poor, the dispossessed, the elderly, and (has) always taken on the cause of people who had nobody else," Massimiano said. "I admire him for that."
Lee Harrison, the chairman of the Berkshire Brigades, the county's Democratic Party organization, said his group has never held a specific event for Kennedy, but that the senator has participated in several Berkshire events the organization has put on.
"We certainly hope that recovery is possible for the senator," Harrison said. "His stature goes without saying. I just wish him well and hope he lives for 1,000 years."
As Ruberto said, pray.
"I've learned over the last three years that prayer is the most powerful of all medicines," Ruberto said. "I've already said a prayer for Senator Kennedy. ... I'm looking forward to seeing him return to Pittsfield in good health."
To reach Tony Dobrowolski: email@example.com, (413) 496-6224.
"Sabor earns back liquor rights"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, May 23, 2008
PITTSFIELD — Following a review of previous disciplinary action, the Licensing Board has voted to allow Sabor Bar & Grill to sell alcoholic beverages until midnight every day except Saturday — but only when food is being served.
Chairman Carmen C. Massimiano Jr. and Robert Quattrochi, the only members in attendance, both approved the measure that was suggested by Sabor's attorney, Thomas J. Hamel of Pittsfield. But the board said it will review its decision in July.
"We have to make it crystal clear that if there's anything wrong, you're jeopardizing this license," Massimiano said Monday.
In February, the Licensing Board revoked for 90 days Sabor's right to sell alcoholic beverages after 10 p.m. every day but Saturday, when normal alcohol sales rules apply, following a variety of complaints involving patrons that were brought forward by police.
Both the city and the state have suspended Sabor's liquor license for short periods of time during the past two years, and late-night problems involving the bar and its patrons date back to 2005, when it was known as Club Red. Sabor, which means "flavor" in Spanish, is located at 17 Wendell Ave. Extension.
It opened two years ago.
The 90-day review of the Licensing Board's previous action ended Monday. Hamel said that no similar incidents involving Sabor had been reported to police during the past three months.
"They have slowly, and in a short period of time, turned the corner," said Hamel, who also had suggested the 90-day ban when Sabor appeared before the board three months ago. "They're doing what they're supposed to be doing."
Massimiano, who was unable to attend the February meeting, began the discussion by saying that, if he had been in attendance at the meeting three months ago, the Licensing Board would have taken away Sabor's liquor license.
"You were extremely lucky," Massimiano said, adding, "The nonsense that goes on at that restaurant is coming to an end, or there will be no license."
Digna Gonzalez, who co-owns Sabor with her husband, chef Paul Saldana, first asked if the board would consider allowing the restaurant to sell alcoholic beverages later than 10 p.m. so it can capitalize on the summer tourist season, specifically Third Thursdays and following Colonial Theatre performances. She said business has been slow, and that it has been hard to keep the restaurant open.
"Right now, it's economically difficult for them to make a profit," Hamel said.
In other business, the board officially approved Pittsfield's use of "Keno-to-Go," a new game that the state Lottery Commission approved in March. Only establishments that sell alcohol have been eligible to apply for Keno licenses since the mid-1990s, but Keno-to-Go allows all lottery agents the opportunity to sell the game.
The board's approval came after a presentation by Dan Rosenfeld, the state Lottery Commission's director of communications. According to board secretary Corinne Hasty, lottery agents in Pittsfield already had begun selling Keno-to-Go, but the board had yet to officially approve its use because a letter from the state Lottery Commission authorizing its use here arrived between board meetings.
To reach Tony Dobrowolski: firstname.lastname@example.org, (413) 496-6224.
May 27, 2008
The politicians are the real criminals; the cops serve as their henchmen. Please read my stories about how Andrea F. Nuciforo II tried to have the Pittsfield police arrest me & send me to Carmen Massimiano's Berkshire jail.
"Williams College Awards 545 Degrees at Commencement"
By Tammy Daniels - June 01, 2008 - iBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN — Williams College graduates were sent out into the world on Sunday with orders to break things.
"Rules are overrated. They need to be changed every generation. That is your most important mandate: If it's not broken, break it," sculptor Richard Serra told them. "One way of coming to terms with the prevailing language of a cultural orthodoxy is to reject it."
Serra, famed for his monumental metal works, exhorted the class to be true to themselves and to others and to ingore the voices that would "quell your aspiration."
Speaking from beneath a broad green-and-white striped canopy as dark clouds scudded overhead, his commencement address to the college's 219th class was echoed by the distant rumbling of thunder.
Serra urged the class to be obsessive - in persistently searching for solutions, in the face of odds and in their own helplessness. "To follow the arc of your own path and not be dissauded takes a certain amount of confidence, passion and intensity, for how you do what you do will confer meaningfulness on what you have done."
But work doesn't mean always mean a constant repetition, he said. "Playful activity provides an alternative way to see, to imagine, to do, to make, to think otherwise."
He cautioned the graduates not to simply "experience by proxy" through the virtual world.
"Don't let the rhetoric of simulation steal away the immediacy of your experience. Keep it real, keep it in the moment."
Commencement exercises began Sunday morning with the traditional procession, led by Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, down Main Street. It ended at West College Lawn as the marchers walked past 37 national flags representing the lands from which the class of 2008 had gathered.
Luckily for the hundreds of graduates, friends and family seated on the lawn, the rain held off although the temperature cooled considerably after the sun disappeared behind threatening clouds.
Along with hats and gowns, a score or more were bedecked in leis, a warm Hawaiian island custom brought to the chilly climes of New England by a group of graduates.
"We figured we'd bring something from the West Coast," said a multiple-lei-wearing Thomas A. Gill of Honolulu, who had just earned his degree in chemistry. A number of graduates were wearing — and sharing — leis of purple, yellow and red flowers and vines.
President Morton O. Shapiro encouraged the graduates' most fervent supporters to be recognized, calling for first parents to stand, then grandparents, then siblings and on until the entire audience was on its feet. "Not a single graduate would be here today without the support and encouragement of many people."
The 510 seniors were called to the stage to receive their diplomas to the accompaniment of cheers, applause, cow bells and air horns. Master's degrees were conferred upon 11 graduates in the History of Art Program and 24 fellows from the Center for Development in Economics.
Class speaker Gordon I. Phillips of McLean, Va., ruminated on how parents, Williams and the millions spent by the federal government had failed to prepare them - parents with kindness, college by being too easy and peers by being too nice.
"We just aren't ready to be kicked out of our rooms and thrown into the real world," he said, telling his classmates to search for direction from their predecessors: "swallow your egos, and admit to someone older or wiser that you have no idea what you're doing and see what they have to say."
His 100-year-old grandmother gave him the best advice, he said, when he asked her what a college graduate should know about the world. "You're beautiful," she replied.
Phillips said it was wonderful advice. "Find the beauty in everything and everyone as best you can."
For Phi Beta Kappa speaker Erika K. Williams of Fairport, N.Y., it was 1980s sci-fi movies that provided inspiration for her speech. Citying cult hit "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension," she noted how the characters "just do what they do because that's who they are. ... We are getting a chance to break out our own versions of black spandex, sequined dinner jackets, flux capacitors and oscillation overthrusters."
And as her class faces the intimadating choice of what it will do next, she was heartened by a sentence in the pages of her contract for the capuchin monkey research she's doing next.
"The sentence reads: The project also has machetes to give out. These you keep over the year as well," Williams said. "To me it meant this: If you want to cut your own way, you can find people who will, quite literally, give you a large jungle knife in order to do so."
Classmates should not worry that they are stepping out into isolation, but can know that others are also taking this journey and that there's help along the way, she said.
Valedictorian Zachary T. Thomas of Pelham, N.Y., extolled the virtues of Williams' liberal arts curriculum, one that allowed him to investigate the linguistic role of "there" and the artistic wonders of Persia at the cusp of the modern era.
"I wanted to attend a college where I could study both physics and history ... and Williams more than fit the bill."
Armed with double majors in some cases, or at least having been able to explore topics in depth or at least leisure across a broad canvas, Williams has armed its graduates for the career twists and turns ahead.
"We have all heard the statistics about the number of different careers the average college graduate will hold before retirement, each potentially requiring a different skill set and knowledge base," said Thomas, citing the example of Robert Engle, who earned his degree at Williams in physics but was awarded a Nobel Prize in economics.
He urged the graduates not to forget that grounding in liberal arts and to remember those subjects outside their majors that got them excited. Read for fun, he said, and continue to engage in intellectual conversations. "Who knows what you'll learn from those outside the Purple Bubble."
Honorary degrees were given to Serra; to journalist, author and former management editor of the Economist Frances Cairncross; to longtime business management leader and JP Morgan Chase senior adviser Robert I. Lipp (1960); to Dr. Nawal Nour, who has fought against the cultural rite of genital cutting of young girls; and to George P. Shultz of Cummington, Marine, scholar, author, lecturer, businessman and former U.S. secretary of the Treasury, Labor and State.
The William Bradford Turner Citizenship Prize given in honor of the 1914 graduate killed in action in World War I was awarded to Danielle Callaway of Birmingham, Mich.
Area students receiving degrees were:
Adam J. McKay, son of Brian and Janice McKay.
Majored in astrophysics with honors and in math; elected to Sigma Xi and a Class of 1960 Scholar in astronomy
Nicole L. Tetreault, daughter of Lee Assante.
Majored in psychology with honors and served with Public Health Alliance.
Allison R. Seyferth, daughter of Eric Seyferth and Sara Reynolds.
Majored in political economy and graduated cum laude.
Hannah K. Noel, daughter of James and Jane Noel.
Majored in American studies, concentration in Latino studies with honors; graduated cum laude. Conducted field research on Mayans living in Indiantown, Fla., and studied overseas.
Daniel Yudkin, son of Jeremy and Kathryn Yudkin.
Majored in psychology, with honors, and philosophy; graduated cum laude. Class of 1960 Scholar in psychology; winner of the G. Stanley Hall Prize in Psychology and the William W. Kleinhandler Prize for Music.
Sean R. Hayes
Majored in art.
Erin J. Peaslee, son of Steven and Linda Peaslee.
Majored in math and psychology and a Class of 1960 Scholar in pyschology. Was a teaching apprentice at Williamstown Elementary School.
Kyle W. Campbell, son of Robert Weitz and Gwen Campbell.
Majored in computer science and English; graduated cum laude.
Megan E. Bailey, daughter of Duane and Mary Bailey.
Majored in art and chemistry.
Scot W. Beattie, son of Donna and Eric Beattie.
Majored in political economy.
Mary Burr, daughter of Andy Burr and Ann McCallum.
Majored in art; graduated cum laude. Won the Bruce Sanderson Prize in Architecture and named a Class of 1960 Scholar in art; studied in Paris.
Benjamin J. Kolesar, son of James and Alison Kolesar.
Majored in art and concentrated in international studies; graduated cum laude. Named a Herbert Lehman Schlolar for academic achievement, won Frederick M. Peyser Prize in Painting, and studied in Mongolia, Uganda and Nicaragua.
Charlotte V. White, daughter of Jane Nichols and Alan White.
Majored in Japanese; won the James A. Linen Grant for summer study in Tokyo.
Erik R. Wobus, son of Reinhard and Sherry Wobus.
Majored in political science; Class of 1960 Scholar in environmental studies. Wrote for the student newspaper.
Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano leads the procession.
"Williams College graduates prepare to take on the world"
By Amy Carr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, June 02, 2008
WILLIAMSTOWN — It is safe in the purple hills. But surrounded by friends, mentors and familiar sidewalks, students gathered on the West College Lawn yesterday to say goodbye to Williams College and prepare for the unknown.
"Not only is there so much we don't know, we don't even know what we don't know," class-elected speaker Gordon I. Phillips told 545 graduates and their closest supporters. "The problem with life is that there are no textbooks. Many of the valuable lessons we learned here at Williams were not from textbooks. What good is a calculus lesson when I am trying to negotiate a lease?"
A theme of tackling the uncertain future rang out in the land of purple and gold as graduating seniors and distinguished guests attempted to emphasize the magnitude of the moment for the school's 219th commencement.
Erika Williams, the ceremonial honor society speaker, encouraged audience members to blaze a new path. After graduation, she will go to Costa Rica to study capuchin monkeys. "A line in the contract literally reads, 'The project also has machetes to give out,' " she said. "So you can clear your own path. ... So, if you want to form your own path, you can quite literally find someone who will give you a huge jungle knife to do so."
While 510 undergraduate and 35 graduate students received degrees, five distinguished guests, including sculptor and commencement speaker Richard Serra, received honorary degrees.
"It's remarkable that this institution has had such an impact on the culture of this country," said Serra, who received an honorary doctor of fine arts degree. "Now Class of 2008, it's your turn."
Serra offered the newest Ephs alumni a catalog of life lessons. But above all, he told the group in black robes, hats and tassels to be bold.
"Rules are overrated," he said. "And it's the job of each generation to break them. That's your most important mandate: If it's not broken, break it."
James Jacobson thought Serra's message was an appropriate one for his grandson William Jacobson, who received a degree in astrophysics.
"I thought Mr. Serra's speech was wonderful because he told it like it is to the graduates," said Jacobson, who runs 22 radio stations nationwide. "There are challenges in the real world. But they're smart kids, and they'll do well."
As the ceremonies drew to a close, valedictorian Zachary Thomas reminded students to take comfort in their memories of higher education.
"Take a moment to look back," he said. "Just because we're departing Williams and its classrooms doesn't mean we have to leave its lessons behind. Keep learning, Class of 2008. If nothing else, you'll stand a better shot in 'Jeopardy.' "
Number of graduates: 510 bachelor's degrees, 35 master's degrees
Quote of the commencement: 'That (Maya Angelou) quote was first used at the Clinton inauguration, which is very fitting because the Clinton presidency was much like college life.' — Gordon Phillips, class-elected speaker
Best mortarboard message: N/A
Memorable moment: Two air horns and a cowbell resounded in the crowd during the official graduation of three students.
"Program helps seniors in crime fight"
By Derek Gentile, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, June 23, 2008
GREAT BARRINGTON — County and local law enforcement officials hosted a luncheon recently to announce the launching of the newest Triad program in Berkshire County, an effort that includes Great Barrington, Alford and Egremont.
Triad, according to Robert M. McDonough, public information officer for the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department, is a national community policing initiative involving senior citizens, law enforcement and local service providers that attempts to increase safety among seniors through education and crime prevention.
The other six Triad chapters are Dalton, Hinsdale/Washington, North Adams, Lenox, Pittsfield and Tyringham.
The Triad meetings will be held the second Wednesday of the month at 2 p.m. at the Senior Center, where seniors will meet with local police and other law enforcement representatives to ask questions about virtually anything about which they feel concerned, McDonough said.
"No problem is too big, no question is too small," said Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, whose office, in conjunction with the Berkshire District Attorney's office, helped bring the program to Great Barrington. "We recognize that many senior citizens are on their own and are vulnerable."
"This ties in with the overall community policing efforts we've been undertaking," said Police Chief William R. Walsh. "We've started a community watch program in Housatonic, and this is another component (of community policing)."
Walsh said that residents do not have to have law enforcement-related questions when they come to the meetings.
"Yeah, really, it's anything they want to bring up," he said. "We were just talking with some seniors about the traffic lights on Main Street. So this isn't just about legal questions."
District Attorney David F. Capeless said that there will be an educational component to the meetings. Senior citizens are among the most vulnerable when it comes to falling for scams.
"This is a generation that is very trusting and goodhearted," he said. "It's a group of people who often are willing to open their doors to strangers, which is sometimes not the best thing to do. But it's hard for many of these folks to understand that people might want to take advantage of them."
McDonough said that meeting with local law enforcement representatives helps seniors "put a face" to them.
"They may be uncomfortable calling the Police Department, but they'll call Bill Walsh because now they know who he is," McDonough said.
"Pointless fuss over Red Sox tickets"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
The hassle Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto is receiving from the state ethics commission over his purchase of Red Sox World Series tickets in 2004 is ridiculous. Apparently the commission is not aware, or refuses to recognize, that the practice of scalping tickets is illegal.
Since the mayor, a true Red Sox fan, in good faith purchased the tickets at face value, neither he nor Dan Duquette is guilty of breaking the law. Furthermore, the mayor's negotiations with Mr. Duquette's baseball team were conducted with his usual skill and integrity and were not adversely affected by his legal purchase of the tickets; on the other hand, they brought the taxpayers of Pittsfield more security and rent than is usual with this level of team and ballpark size.
That said, shouldn't we now put this whole ridiculous affair into its proper perspective? What big deal are we talking about? The Duquette ball club, however talented we feel these young men to be, are not the major leagues! And the size of our beloved Wahconah Park could hardly generate enough income to put a chicken in every taxpayer pot.
The ethics commission should stop trying to impugn the integrity of a truly honest man and instead save the travel expenses to the Berkshires and concentrate on Boston's Big Dig, where the issue of ethics would warrant writing a new rule book. Leave the case of "The mayor's Red Sox tickets" in the capable hands of Inspector Clouseau!
JEANNE S. MASSIMIANO
"Sabor faces crackdown"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
PITTSFIELD — The Licensing Board has amended Sabor Bar & Grill's entertainment license after a neighbor filed a noise complaint with police earlier this month.
In response to the complaint, the board voted 2-1 in favor of having Sabor stop playing music at 11:30 p.m. for 60 days. Management will be allowed to appear before the board next month if the problem is rectified before September.
Rose Young, who filed the noise complaint with police, lives on the fourth floor of the same Wendell Avenue Extension building that houses Sabor. The restaurant is located in the basement.
Albert "Butch" Pisani and Robert Quattrochi voted in favor of amending the license, with Chairman Carmen C. Massimiano Jr. opposed. Earlier in the meeting, Massimiano said he was in favor of revoking Sabor's liquor license due to the number of complaints involving the establishment over the last three years. Sabor has also appeared at three of the board's seven monthly meetings this year.
Massimiano directed his ire at Sabor's liquor license holder, Dana Carpenter of Northampton, a financial planner who also owns the apartment building.
"I want you to survive," Massimiano said to Sabor's co-owner, Digna Gonzalez. "I don't want the holder of the license to survive. This has been going on so long we can just book it. Sabor will be here for sure. This is ridiculous. I'm not going to have our Police Department tied up responding to these complaints."
When Gonzalez asked the board to reconsider, Massimiano said: "Here's an alternative. I would revoke the license today. I don't believe you play by the rules, and I don't believe you think they extend to you. ... I'm sick of this nonsense. I don't believe you'll do what you say you'll do. There's always an excuse."
"As far as I'm concerned, you're unwilling or unable to abide by the laws of the city of Pittsfield," he said.
The board had been scheduled to review a decision it made in May to allow Sabor to serve alcoholic beverages until midnight every day except Saturday — but only when food is being served.
Captain Patrick F. Barry said that police had received no complaints regarding the establishment's sale of alcoholic beverages during the last two months.
According to Barry, police officers were dispatched to Sabor at 12:18 a.m. on July 20 after Young complained about loud music coming from the restaurant. Sabor had a disc jockey that night, according to the police report.
In the report, Lt. Katherine O'Brien and Officer Nicole Gaynor stated they could hear the music in a parking lot across the street and in Young's apartment, which faces East Street. Sabor turned off the music at the officers' request, but Gaynor was dispatched back to Sabor at 1:30 a.m. for a second loud music complaint. This time the establishment shut off the music because it was closing time.
Young, who has lived in the building for five years, said she called the police because she had been trying to bring her concerns about the noise to the apartment building's manager, Don Davis. The fact that the officers heard the music in the apartment verified her concerns, she added.
"Evidence is evidence," Young said.
Carpenter said he hasn't received other noise complaints, adding that he had a stack of letters from other residents who "say they can't hearing anything." He also said a police officer had visited the apartment building last weekend and didn't hear any noise. Barry said he hadn't received a report from that officer.
"If people (on the lower floors) don't hear anything, I don't understand how the noise is tracking to one apartment," Carpenter said.
Instead of disciplinary action, both Barry and Young said they were more interested in having the noise problem resolved.
To reach Tony Dobrowolski: TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com 413) 496-6224.
"Annual picnic draws politicians"
Thursday, August 21, 2008, By MICHAEL McAULIFFE, email@example.com
AGAWAM - Sheriff Michael J. Ashe Jr. has been on the job more than three decades, but if he were ever to decide on another line of work he might want to be a weatherman.
Once again Wednesday, the sheriff's annual clambake included steak, chicken, clams, clam chowder, corn on the cob, hot dogs, hamburgers, soda, beer - and very good weather. In fact, the sun-filled day was among the finest of this too wet Western Massachusetts summer.
The clambake usually draws about 2,000 people, but Sheriff's Department spokesman Richard J. McCarthy said the number was slightly higher Wednesday for the 31st annual event.
"This is just a beautiful clambake late-summer day," said McCarthy, who added about the event: "It's just become such an institution that I think people want to come just to experience it."
The event attracts politicians, and among those who came Wednesday to the Six Flags New England picnic grove were U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry and his opponent in the Sept. 16 Democratic primary, Edward J. O'Reilly of Gloucester, plus Republican Jeffrey K. Beatty, of Harwich, who will draw the winner in the Nov. 4 general election.
U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, who is seeking re-election in the 1st Congressional District, also attended, as did Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray and Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno.
This year's clambake also drew new University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach Derek Kellogg, who brought his coaching staff. Kellogg's father, George, is a community service officer with the Sheriff's Department.
The clambake is put on by Ashe's re-election committee, and the sheriff, who is in his sixth six-year term, will seek re-election in 2010.
"I still got the passion," the 68-year-old Ashe said, adding: "To me, it's still exciting."
Murray, who was elected in 2006, recalled that during his campaign people said the clambake was a must-attend event. The lieutenant governor also said the sheriff was one of the first "significant political leaders in the state to support me in my primary campaign, and I'm forever grateful."
"Sheriff's Road Race to be held on Saturday"
TheTranscript.com, Thursday, August 21, 2008
PITTSFIELD -- The 16th annual Sheriff's Road Race has been scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 23.
The event, which includes a 10-kilometer running race for serious runners and a 2-kilometer fun run, will begin at 10 a.m. at 814 East St. Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano Jr., will serve as official race starter. Check-in time is 9 a.m.
The Sheriff's Road Race is organized and produced by Joseph Cardillo of Cardillo Mechanical Contracting Inc.
The entry fee is $5, and entries are due no later than Friday, Aug. 22, mailed to Sheriff's Road Race, P.O. Box 639, Pittsfield, MA 01202. There is no race-day registration. Donations also will be accepted. All proceeds benefit charity. In its 15 years, the event has raised more than $117,000 for charitable causes. T-shirts will be given to the first 50 who register.
Cash prizes in the 10-kilometer race include $100 for first place, $75 for second place and $50 for third place in both male and female divisions.
Information: (413) 445-5568.
"SJC affirms house arrest backed by GPS: Says sheriff didn't overstep by sending inmate home"
By David Abel, (Boston) Globe Staff, August 23, 2008
The state Supreme Judicial Court yesterday ruled that the Middlesex sheriff acted appropriately when he released a three-time convicted drunk driver from jail after six months and allowed him to serve the remainder of an 18-month sentence under house arrest with a GPS monitoring device.
The decision overturned a ruling by a Middlesex Superior Court judge who said the sheriff interfered with the judiciary's sentencing role by prematurely sending inmates home. The SJC said the sheriff was within his power to place Edward Donohue into the GPS monitoring program because Donohue had already served six months of his sentence and was eligible for parole.
"Having served even more than the legislatively prescribed minimum period of incarceration, it is clear that Donohue had served what might be deemed a 'reasonable period' before he was permitted to participate in the GPS program," Justice Francis X. Spina wrote in the 6-1 decision. "Nothing set forth in [the law] restricts the sheriff's ability to place an inmate on home confinement with a GPS monitoring bracelet."
Middlesex Sheriff James DiPaola's office released Donohue from the Billerica House of Correction in September 2007. In addition to wearing the GPS device, he was required to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, receive counseling, and perform community service.
Superior Court Judge Diane Kottmyer ruled that DiPaola lacked the authority to declare Donohue's home a "place of confinement" and ordered Donohue back to jail. She also ordered other inmates back to jail who had been released into the GPS program before completing their sentences.
In a phone interview, DiPaola said he was pleased by the SJC ruling.
"We think the SJC has reaffirmed the authority of the sheriff's office and their trust in our ability to make these kinds of decisions," he said. "They said the sheriff was in the most unique position to make this decision."
He said only 1 percent of Middlesex's roughly 1,000 inmates are eligible to participate in the GPS program. He said there are now fewer than 10 inmates in the program.
"We are very judicious in use of this program," DiPaola said. "But it does help shift the costs off the backs of taxpayers and onto the offenders."
The attorney general's office represented Judge Kottmyer and said it appreciated the SJC's guidance on the issue. "In issuing its decision today, the SJC has resolved this difficult question," said Emily LaGrassa, a spokeswoman for the office.
"Today's decision will help guide the Commonwealth's judges and sheriffs in sentencing matters," she said.
Benjamin B. Selman, a lawyer with the Committee for Public Counsel Services who was appointed by the court to represent Donohue, said the SJC ruling will help ensure the separation of powers between the executive and judicial branches.
"I'm very happy with the opinion," Selman said.
Justice Judith Cowin was the lone dissenting vote. In a separate opinion, she wrote that state laws require that inmates remain in jail while participating in work or education programs. She contended that the court was intervening on the Legislature's turf.
"In approving the GPS program, the court simply ignores language [in the law] that is unfavorable to its position," Cowin wrote.
"The key language [in the law] is that 'before' a committed offender is allowed to participate in any program outside of a correctional facility, the commissioner must arrange for 'reasonable periods of confinement to particular correctional facilities.' "
The Berkshire Eagle, Sports
"Sheriff's Race raises $7K to go to charities"
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
The 16th annual Sheriff's Road Race, held Saturday in Pittsfield, raised more than $7,000 for local charities.
In its 16 years, the race has raised more than $124,000 for charitable contributions.
Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. served as the race's official starter. The race is organized and produced by Joseph Cardillo of Cardillo Mechanical Contracting, Inc.
"Educators look to Pittsfield to combat truancy: Juvenile center serving as model for Boston effort to aid those in need"
By Maria Cramer, Boston Globe Staff, September 26, 2008
PITTSFIELD - At about 1 p.m., a half-dozen teenagers in jeans and sneakers walked into an enormous, red-brick building surrounded by a barbed wire fence.
They smiled and waved at corrections officers guarding the front door, walked through a metal detector, and headed to meet employment specialists or take classes in politics, English literature, or computer science.
They are sent here because they habitually skip school or have dropped out. But once they walk through these doors, they cannot leave until they have finished their classes. They are each assigned a caseworker who knows their academic record, medical history, and whether they are having troubles at home. For three hours, they attend class or learn how to fill out job applications and interview with prospective employers.
A 16-year-old who came to the center after missing 100 days at Pittsfield High School said the imposing building made her nervous at first. But she has found she likes the structure at the center, the small classrooms, and the individual attention from staff members.
"There's less kids here. Less drama. The teachers are really nice," the sophomore said. "They actually sit down with you and ex plain things to you."
The Juvenile Resource Center, nestled in the hills of the Berkshires, has become a template for Boston school officials as they pursue plans to open a center for truants and dropouts this school year - part of an aggressive campaign that could involve putting five times as many officers on the street to look for absent students.
Superintendent Carol R. Johnson, who has made lowering the dropout rate one of her highest priorities, hopes to emulate the success of Pittsfield, where the number of students who have dropped out has fallen from 8.5 percent to 5.5 percent in three years.
School officials are also looking at the center to become a haven from violence. Through May 5 this year, there were 29 fatal and nonfatal shootings of people 20 years old and younger. More than a third of them had been late or missed school at least 40 times and 13 of them were dropouts, according to an analysis by Boston school police.
"It's a life-and-death issue," said Irvin Scott, academic superintendent for high schools in Boston. "We need safety nets in place. We're hemorrhaging students and the only way to do something is to put something in place as soon as possible."
Boston school officials are scouring locations for their center as they work with Boston, MBTA, and school police, who have suggested giving an additional two dozen officers the legal authority to take truant students back to school. Scott said the cost of the center could be substantial, though he declined to provide estimates. He said school officials hope to absorb much of the cost by diverting resources rather than tapping the budget.
The city has six officers, known as attendance officers, who have the legal authority to bring a student back to school. There are about 56,000 students in the school district.
Officers often find themselves in the position of bringing students back to school, where they will disrupt class and frustrate school officials who have a hard time controlling them. Usually, the student will skip school again.
Between November 2007 and May 2008, police officers stopped 612 students in Boston during truancy sweeps as part of Operation StopWatch, a program that tried a gentler approach with truant teens. Officers - from the Boston Police Department, the MBTA, and Boston schools - would talk to the students, query them about why they were skipping school, then notify schools and parents.
Of the nearly 5,000 freshman students who entered the class of 2007, about 19 percent of them dropped out, according to school officials.
Scott said the goal of the center, which would be called a transition center, is to create a place with counselors, teachers, even mental health and medical specialists, who will have the time to deal one on one with troubled students, find out what their needs are, and figure out how to help them finish school.
The facility will also give police, most of whom are powerless to do anything but report truants to the schools, a place to refer students.
Sergeant Detective Michael Talbot, who commands the school police unit in the Boston department, said the plan is not to haul students into a cruiser against their will, but coax them into going back to school with officers who will talk to them about the center.
Officers at the Juvenile Resource Center use a similar approach. If a student physically resists, officers will file a petition with the court system that will require the student to return to school.
Most of the time, however, the uniform commands enough respect that students go willingly with officers, said Officer Ian Taylor, who works out of the Pittsfield center.
The student is usually sent back to his school, but if he has missed more than a certain number of days, he is typically referred to the center.
The fortress-like nature of the 138-year-old building, a jail built by Civil War soldiers that still has bars on the window and an attic where prisoners were once hung, has become a large part of the center's success, said Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano Jr.
"The kids feel safe," said Carole Siegel, a mental health consultant at the center. "Most of them come from chaotic existences. When they come through that entrance, they see the officers, their shoulders go down. They are safe."
Boston's center is unlikely to be a former jail, said Scott, who would rather put the students at a community college.
"I just think it is so important to be careful about the messages that we send," Scott said. "I don't want to in any way send a message that this is a criminalization of them . . . We want to send that message that we care too much to let them go."
Maria Cramer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL
"Truancy begins at home"
September 29, 2008
WHEN THEY CALL for giving court dates to parents who refuse to deal with their chronically truant children, City Council President Maureen Feeney and at-large councilor John Connolly aren't just playing to the cheap seats. The consequences of erratic school attendance - high dropout, teen pregnancy, and incarceration rates - are simply too dire to ignore.
The proposal that Feeney and Connolly made last week deserves a full public hearing. It is based on a successful effort in Waterbury, Conn., where a probate judge can order a range of supports for families, ranging from extra tutoring for pupils to drug treatment for parents. Though guardianship rights could be challenged in extreme cases, the emphasis is on getting parents to provide the care needed for their children to succeed in school.
Boston school officials are expressing initial support - provided the focus remains on connecting families to social services, not to the criminal justice system. "Tough love" from a judge may be just what some parents need, says Irvin Scott, Boston's academic superintendent for high schools. With four-year graduation rates in Boston at just 60 percent, school officials like Scott know they can't accept spotty attendance, which is a dress rehearsal for dropping out.
How well the district succeeds at retaining students will depend less on any judge's pronouncements than on policies now being shaped at school department headquarters on Court Street. The city now has 16 alternative schools for struggling students, ranging from pregnant girls to students caught with weapons on school grounds. Scott says this approach is not working well. He wants to open a "transition center" during the current academic year where truants, dropouts, and other failing students can receive a 5 to 10-day evaluation to determine a proper school placement.
Boston's alternative education system is due for an overhaul. More work may need to be brought in-house instead of subcontracted to community groups. While special classrooms exist for students with histories of violence, there are too few good options for chronically truant students whose problems may result from ill health or from shame over their inability to keep up with their classmates in district schools. And finding these students and bringing them back to school is likely to require more than the six attendance officers now covering the 56,000 students in Boston.
The courtroom may be the place to start for some families whose children can't find their way to school. But Boston needs to make sure there are destinations worthy of the trip.
Photo by John Wilcox
ON GUARD: Transit police Lt. Detective Mark Gillespie, above, talks to students at the Downtown Crossing T station.
"Truancy force on watch for Hub’s children"
By Jessica Van Sack, The Beat, Monday, September 29, 2008, www.bostonherald.com, Local Coverage
The worried Dorchester mother walks her 14-year-old son to the bus stop each morning. She watches the scrum of teens at the Ashmont T station shove their way onto the school bus through the rear emergency door. She hears about frequent fights on the bus, and she fears for her son.
On Tuesday, the shaken mom took her concerns to the StopWatch task force. The group consists of police and outreach workers who try to ensure that students get safely to and from school - and to find those who don’t get there at all.
Now that this worried mom has spoken out, the task force is pushing for more crossing guards outside the Ashmont T station.
It’s a great example of how invaluable parental involvement can be.
If every parent watched their child as closely, the Boston Public Schools would not now be grappling with a staggering rate of truancy - and the City Council would not be considering whether to haul the parents of those kids into court.
Instead, there are parents like the mother of a Dorchester third-grader who got a call last year to pick up her sick child - and was clueless.
“And what school is that?” the woman asked, one official recalled.
“And where exactly is that?” As school department and authorities devise plans for a new truancy center, the cops, the clergy, probation officials and others do their best to make up for absent parents.
On a rainy Friday afternoon, the Operation StopWatch task force, headed by Lt. Detective Mark Gillespie of the MBTA Transit Police, descended on the Green Street T station until the swarm of students from English High School had safely boarded the trains.
Then on to Ruggles, where tensions had been rising last week, and Downtown Crossing.
“This is one of our big stations for truancy watch,” said Shannon McCarron, one of two new MBTA juvenile officers.
Added Gillespie, “You’re looking for the students without backpacks.”
Come mid-October, the group will focus even more on combating truancy. They’ll roam T stations in the middle of the school day, sneaker stores, jewelry shops and other hangouts looking for students playing hooky.
I asked about 20 students how they felt about the presence of authorities. They were all over the map. But the simple sentiment of Luis Reyes, a junior at English High School, summed it up just right.
Said the 16-year-old: “I feel watched.”
Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/general/view.bg?articleid=1122139
"Teti's gets reprimanded: The owner of the bar and grill must cooperate with police or lose his liquor license after 3 people were shot."
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Tuesday, September 30, 2008
PITTSFIELD — The Pittsfield Licensing Board has put on notice the owner of Teti's Variety and Luncheonette — cooperate with police or likely lose your liquor license.
While the three-member panel took no official action against Joseph Teti during yesterday's show cause hearing, Board Chairman Carmen C. Massimiano Jr. told the 73-year-old owner of the West Side bar and grill his "license hangs by a thread."
"If you're not fully and completely cooperating I will vote to revoke your license," said Massimiano.
Pittsfield police requested the hearing following last week's shooting in Teti's on Columbus Avenue in which three people were injured, one seriously with a gunshot wound to the chest.
Massimiano noted the cooperation must go beyond the owner.
"If anyone in your employment doesn't fully and completely cooperate, it's also a black mark against you," added Massimiano.
"I work with the police 100 percent," Teti said.
Captain Michael J. Wynn concurred saying Teti and his staff "have been more than cooperative."
Police say the problem is the 10 to 15 patrons in Teti's when the shooting began are still not talking.
"The victims are no stranger to us," Detective Thomas Bowler told the board. "No doubt someone in the bar knew who the shooter was. We know who the shooter was but don't have enough evidence to make an arrest."
Police have not publicly said the shooting victims were familiar with the gunman.
Bowler and Wynn felt Teti needs to keep better tabs on the clientele frequenting his establishment.
"It's no secret we've had several investigations for narcotics and disturbances in Teti's," Bowler said.
Wynn noted that three or four known gang members were in Teti's when the shooting began just after 11:30 p.m. last Wednesday.
Victim have may gang ties
Police have stated that one of the gunshot victims, Joseph Davis, is known to have gang ties, but police have not determined whether the shooting was gang-related or if it stemmed from a quarrel between the parties.
"It's hard to say who is a gang member and who is not," said Teti. "As long as (the patrons) behave, they can stay or I'll throw them out."
Massimiano cautioned Teti against allowing troublemakers back into his establishment, because that too would count against him in trying to keep his all-alcohol restaurant license.
"This license is a privilege," said Massimiano. "Licensed premises will not break out into gunfights."
Teti's for decades has been the local gathering place on the West Side and an unfamiliar face would stand out.
"If you're not known in a neighborhood bar, you'll draw attention," added Massimiano.
Board member Albert Pisani urged Teti to call police anytime he gets a stranger in his place.
"Joe, you've always cooperated," said Pisani, "We're asking you be more vigilant."
"I have always protected my livelihood," Teti said. "But this has been a nightmare for me."
He added business has been "way off" since the shooting.
Massimiano told Teti the shooting has been a black eye for the city.
"In one night we did more damage to Pittsfield's reputation," he said. "We don't want these people in Pittsfield, never mind in your place."
"Urging a 'no' vote: Firefighters, BCC push to retain state income tax"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Friday, October 10, 2008
PITTSFIELD — Massachusetts is voting for the second time in six years to eliminate the state income tax.
The ballot question was rejected the last time, but Liz Recko-Morrison is not taking any chances history will repeat itself, which is why the testing coordinator at Berkshire Community College was among the two dozen people at Park Square yesterday afternoon urging motorists driving by to vote against Question 1 on Nov. 4.
"I'm not taking for granted people will vote 'no' again, when 45 percent of the (voters) were for it the first time," said Recko-Morrison, who also heads the Massachusetts Community College Council, Berkshire Chapter, representing roughly 200 faculty and professional staff at BCC.
The board of trustees at BCC is already on record opposed to the ballot question.
"The first question was non-binding," added Recko-Morrison. "I'm very concerned the question this time is binding as of January."
A "yes" vote on Question 1 would reduce the state income tax to 2.65 percent on Jan 1, 2009 and eliminate it all together a year later.
Proponents say getting rid of the income tax will save Massachusetts wage earners an average of $3,700 which can be re-invested in the local economy.
However, the 5.3 percent income tax will raise about $12.7 billion this year, money that will go toward local and state services.
"It's very important to show people what will happen if this passes," said Timothy Bartini, president of the Pittsfield Firefighters Association, which helped organize the protest. "No state aid would kill Pittsfield."
Bartini added the city fire department has been cut so many times it's already "bare-boned."
The Pittsfield School Committee Wednesday night also went on record in its opposition to Question 1 and urged voters to do the same.
"Vote for yourself," said committee member Carmen C. Massimiano Jr. "We all depend on educational, medical and public safety services and they're not free."
Mayor James M. Ruberto said eliminating the income tax "is the worst idea ever" and voting against it is a "no-brainer."
Even clergy are on the vote "no" bandwagon.
The Massachusetts Council of Churches Board of Directors last month urged voters to reject eliminating the state income tax saying "such a measure would slash state services to the most vulnerable and at-risk citizens."
Quentin Chin, of Pittsfield, a minister in the United Church of Christ in Lenox and Plainfield, was also protesting Question 1, claiming the state income tax is for the common good.
"We all pay into the pool, so we in society can make our lives worthwhile," Chin said.
"Cities, towns scouting to save money"
By Matt Murphy, Berkshire Eagle Boston Bureau, Friday, October 10, 2008
BOSTON — Models for regionalizing local government services like schools, emergency dispatch centers and public health programs should get a second look, according to new report, as cities and towns search for new ways to save money in a struggling economy.
Even as the state looks to stave off cuts in local aid to municipalities across the state this year, public officials and finance experts agree it could be increasingly difficult in the coming two to three years to maintain the same level of state support for cities and towns.
A new report, to be released today by the Pioneer Institute, suggests regionalization of a variety of services could be one way for local leaders to make up the difference and still maintain the same level of service expected by taxpayers.
"Everyone seems to understand that regionalization has the potential to save costs, but there are obstacles to doing it," said Steve Poftak, the Pioneer Institute's director of research.
The 30-page report, titled "Regionalization: Case Studies of Success in Failure in Massachusetts," attempts to identify some of those obstacles while highlighting success stories that could be used as a model for other communities.
One such example is the Berkshire County 911 dispatch, where 23 communities fund a regional public safety dispatch center through the Sheriff's office allowing small towns to take advantage of state of the art technology for cheap money. Another is the Nashoba Associated Boards of Health, a decades old organization headquartered in Ayer that now provides health inspection, vaccination and other public health services to 19 communities.
Berkshire County, for years, operated a regional dispatch, first run by the county commissioners and then- Sheriff Carmen Massimiano. The county took advantage of state and federal grants to upgrade its facilities in 2006 and now offers communities top technology and service at a fraction of the price.
Massachusetts, in 2007, required dispatch centers to make emergency 911 upgrades.
"Lenox got a state-of-the-art dispatch center for $20,000, while Dalton recently paid $1 million for 911 upgrades," Massimiano said.
The $20,000 paid by Lenox is the town's annual contribution as the member communities share the cost of personnel and capital expenses.
The Pioneer Institute study finds that both unions and management officials can sometimes be barriers to regionalization, concerned about self-preservation or the protection of jobs in any given city or town. Boards of selectmen, school committees and other agencies are also sometimes reluctant to give up any measure of local control, arguing regional authorities can not understand their unique local needs.
"Police were afraid they were going to lose their jobs, that's why they were against it," Great Barrington Board of Selectmen Chair Walter Atwood told the Pioneer Institute.
Great Barrington, along with North Adams and a number of other communities, have not opted into the regional dispatch for various reasons.
North Adams Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco said his city's size, the presence of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and the volume of calls generated in city made it questionable whether a regional center could provide the level of service needed.
Instead, North Adams has combined its own police and fire dispatch centers which it shares with the neighboring towns of Clarksburg and Stamford, Vt.
Geoffrey Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, said cities and towns, both big and small, are discussing ways to combine resources.
"It's an important opportunity, primarily to maintain a level of service during challenging times, even if there aren't enormous savings," Beckwith said. "One of the challenges is we have to bring down some of the obstacles and barriers."
Beckwith said having to negotiate with multiple unions in different cities and towns can be an impediment. He also applauded the state for passing legislation this year making it easier to form municipal partnerships by no longer requiring each Town Meeting involved in the agreement to approve.
Regionalization, the study admits, does not always work for everybody. The town of Westford, as it grew from 10,000 residents to more than 20,000 today, pulled out of the Nashoba Associated Boards of Health because it found it had reached a size where it could provide its own services, and meet demands, for less money.
"I hesitate to talk about this because we are really fighting for regionalization. It just wasn't efficient in this case," said Sandy Collins, director of Health Care Services in Westford.
To break down some of the those walls, the Pioneer Institute recommends a number of steps the state can take, including developing "best-practice standards" and costs that town officials can compare to their own budgets.
The state can also develop model template programs and offer subsidies for those towns willing to try regionalizing services, while withholding some state funding from those towns who choose to go it alone.
Gov. Deval L. Patrick has displayed some measure of support for regionalization efforts, particularly in small districts where towns could save on redundant administrative costs by consolidating.
Pittsfield, Massachusetts: "Officials rally against Question 2"
By Conor Berry, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Friday, October 17, 2008
PITTSFIELD — Some of the region's top law enforcement officials are expected to gather on the steps of Pittsfield City Hall today at 11 a.m. to declare their opposition to softening marijuana penalties.
Specifically, they'll be voicing opposition to a November ballot initiative that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Better known as Question 2, the binding referendum would reduce the penalty for possession of an ounce or less from a criminal offense to a civil infraction punishable by a fine.
Prosecutors and many politicians and police officials staunchly oppose the ballot initiative, likening it to an endorsement of substance abuse and criminal activity.
Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless is expected to be joined outside City Hall today by Hampden District Attorney William M. Bennet and Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth "Betsy" D. Scheibel, whose jurisdiction includes Hampshire and Franklin counties. Numerous other officials are slated to attend, including Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano and state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield.
The effort to defeat Question 2 is being spearheaded by the Coalition for Safe Streets, a grassroots organization comprised of law enforcement agencies, businesses, community leaders and others opposed to lessening the sting — and stigma — of marijuana possession.
"DA's around the state have been doing regional events" to lobby against Question 2, said Wesley Eberle of O'Neill and Associates, a Boston public relations firm hired by the coalition to galvanize opposition to the marijuana measure.
Meanwhile, the Boston-based Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy is the major proponent of Question 2, which, according to backers, would eliminate unnecessary prosecutions and free up millions of dollars for cash-strapped police departments to fight violent crime.
The statewide issue has a local twist: The chairwoman of the marijuana committee, Whitney Taylor, a 38-year-old Boston resident, served as campaign director for Judith Knight, the Great Barrington attorney who lost the 2006 Berkshire district attorney's race to Capeless.
The focal point of that race was the arrest of 19 young adults charged in connection with a 2004 drug sting in Great Barrington. Taylor, who was living with her family in Sheffield at the time, became active in a local group that lobbied Capeless for lenient prosecution in the cases.
Taylor, in a phone interview yesterday, said representatives from her organization would not be present at today's rally in Pittsfield. But the organization plans to issue a response to the event, she said.
The Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy's main thrust is to prevent the creation of a CORI — or criminal offender record information report — for those caught with small amounts of marijuana.
"The creation of a CORI, that follows you for the rest of your life," Taylor said.
Massachusetts' current criminal guidelines allow for penalties of up to six months in jail and a $500 fine for those convicted of marijuana possession, who also will carry a lifetime criminal record.
Under the proposed law change, Taylor said, those caught with an ounce or less would face a $100 fine and offenders under age 18 would be required to complete a drug-awareness program.
Taylor, who is busy these days crusading on behalf of Question 2, is scheduled to debate the marijuana issue with Capeless on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Berkshire Community College. The debate will be held in BCC's Koussevitzky Theater.
To reach Conor Berry: email@example.com; (413) 496-6249.
"Pittsfield Program Links At-Risk Students with Resources for their Future"
Earlier this morning, Downing delivered remarks as state and local officials along with community leaders gathered at the Catholic Youth Center in Pittsfield to launch "Reconnect," a city-wide program designed to encourage students to explore their options before deciding to drop out of school; connect students with GED preparation or continuing education; receive guidance and work preparation skills; provide seminars by Berkshire Community College on how to connect to college; and develop an Individual Career Development Plan (ICDP) with the assistance of a Career Coach.
Reconnect has been in operation since the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year and is open Monday - Friday, 10:00 am - 2:00 pm for drop-ins and referrals. Staff advisors are available to help youth and young adults plan their next steps in their career paths, including strategies for further education, job search, training and life skills.
Source: Senator Ben Downing's Press Pass: Week of October 18 - October 24, 2008.
"A project to help high school dropouts opens in its new space"
By Jenn Smith, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Saturday, October 25, 2008
PITTSFIELD — Pittsfield agencies have opened a new front in the fight to help high school dropouts.
Yesterday more than 30 representatives from the education, business, human service and other, community-based sectors gathered to herald the official opening of the Reconnect Center for teens and young adults.
The effort has been over a year in the making. The center is now located on the third floor of the Catholic Youth Center on Melville Street. There, youths seeking educational and career services can find year-round help and resources, Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
"It's been a long time coming, but we're glad to be here," said Heather Shogry, youth director of the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board. The BCREB is the coordinating agency of the center in conjunction with the Berkshire Community Action Council.
"For me personally, if I can just help get one kid on track, it would make my job worth it," she said.
Shortly after the ceremony, 16-year-old Tyffanie Heath wandered in with her mother, Tina Dickson, who had learned about the center the day before. Heath dropped out of Hoosac Valley High School on Thursday.
Heath said she plans to enroll in a General Educational Development (GED) program. "I just want to finish that, get a job or a career and get myself straight," the young woman said.
After an initial meeting with a Reconnect Center representative, the teen already had plans to return on Monday to meet with career coach Bryan House. Asked how she felt after touring the center and meeting the staff, Heath said, "It makes me feel good."
The Reconnect Center, part of the state Pathway-21 Network to advocate for at-risk youths, has three main objectives: to encourage youths not to drop out of school; to assist youths and young adults (ages 16 to 24) who have dropped out of school; and to help youths and young adults find a career pathway.
Since 2003, more than 800 students have dropped out of Pittsfield Public Schools alone.
A two-day outreach event involving 150 youths, local businesses and other youth agencies last September served as the impetus to have a more permanent, sustainable place where young people could find support outside of home and schools.
The third-floor space on Melville Street offers private meeting space, a common area and a kitchen where teens and staff — which currently consists of House and center Director Thomas Dillon, a lifelong educator — can help guide young people to further their education, find on-the-job mentoring, and prepare for a career.
"These are tough times," said Mayor James M. Ruberto, who spoke at yesterday's ceremony along with BCREB youth consultant Jim Ciullo, state Sen. B. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield; Howard "Jake" Eberwein III, superintendent of Pittsfield Public Schools; and Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano Jr.
"We need to keep kids thinking that if I am at a disconnect, I can reconnect right here," Ruberto said.
Eberwein added that the program is another step toward reducing the city's dropout rate, joining existing efforts like the Juvenile Resource Center, dropout forums, and the Berkshire Compact for Higher Education.
According to Eberwein, Pittsfield is now one of only 12 schools in the states to experience a decline in dropouts.
BCREB Youth Director Heather Shogry said that the center is still developing, and there is a proposal to establish a second center in North County with the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition.
The center is also seeking computer stations with educational and career software, as well as technical assistance for set-up and maintenance.
Shogry said she envisions the creation of a "coffee shop" atmosphere, where motivated young people can meet and encourage one another.
But for now, it's about getting the word out. Said career coach Bryan House, "That will be key, for youths to have something they can be a part of and that they want to access."
Berkshire County, Massachusetts, USA
"Sheriff to push forward: Carmen C. Massimiano II plans to run for another six-year term in 2010."
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff
The Berkshire Eagle Online, Tuesday, December 30, 2008
PITTSFIELD — Carmen C. Massimiano Jr. has served as Berkshire County Sheriff for 30 years.
Now he wants the job until 2016.
Massimiano, who this past weekend hit the 30-year mark, announced Monday that he'll seek another six-year term when his position goes to voters in 2010.
Massimiano, 64, is the longest-serving sheriff of the 20 in the county's 267-year history. He was sworn into office by then-Gov. Michael S. Dukakis on Dec. 27, 1978.
J. Bruce McIntyre is second to Massimiano in tenure, serving as sheriff from 1933 to 1962.
"I knew I would like this job, and I still do," Massimiano said Monday. "It's a blessing going to work every day."
Friends and colleagues said they aren't surprised Massimiano wants to seek re-election.
"If he goes six more years, he can count on my support," said state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox. "We need his personality and direct approach, which is lacking in government today."
Massimiano oversees the 500-cell Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction, which opened seven years ago off Route 8 in Pittsfield. It replaced the aging, overcrowded facility on Second Street, which in 2002 was renovated and converted into the Juvenile Resource Center (JRC).
In addition, the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office runs the Community Corrections Center on Fourth Street in Pittsfield, operates the emergency communications center for 23 towns, and runs the county's underwater search and rescue team.
Massimiano, however, said he is most proud of the educational and treatment programs created during his 30-year tenure. He said they have been a deterrent to criminal behavior.
The JRC is Massimiano's newest program, created to help troubled students stay in school or complete their high school education.
"We have to keep children in school and keep them connected to education," Massimiano said. "We want to try and divert people from jail."
"Education is his forte," said Clifford J. Nilan, Chief of Probation in Berkshire Superior Court. "The programs he has are a great benefit to the people we in the probation office supervise."
Howard "Jake" Eberwein III, superintendent of Pittsfield Public Schools, said Massimiano has been a valuable member of the Pittsfield School Committee, especially in securing grants.
"The Safe Schools grant would not have been possible without Carmen's help," Eberwein said, referring to the three-year, $9 million federal package. "(Massimiano's) depth of experience, knowledge and connections have helped our schools tremendously."
Massimiano credits his wife, Linda, for keeping him focused.
"She's not afraid to tell me when I'm wrong," he said.
To reach Dick Lindsay: firstname.lastname@example.org, or (413) 496-6233.
"Marijuana decriminalization law goes into effect"
January 2, 2009, 8:00 AM, By Boston Globe Staff
It's no longer a crime to have one ounce or less of pot. The state's new marijuana decriminalization law, approved by voters in a November referendum, goes into effect today.
Those who are caught with an ounce or less would get a ticket similar to a building code citation. They could appeal the civil infraction in court within 21 days or pay a $100 fine set in the law. Juvenile violators would have to pay the fine and attend a drug abuse counseling course, or have the fine increased to $1,000.
The state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security released guidelines Monday in response to questions about the law. The state noted that the new statute applied to all substances that contain THC, which includes hashish and hash oil. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the active ingredient in marijuana that gives users a high.
The state also asked communities to consider passing local ordinances criminalizing the use of marijuana in public, which today is only a civil offense if the smoker possesses an ounce or less.
Massimiano Jr., Carmen via www.mass.gov's Sheriffs: Biographies (1/5/2009)
Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., was born and brought up in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He is a graduate of Pittsfield High School; holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, and also holds a Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice Administration from American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts. Sheriff Massimiano was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from North Adams State College, which is now named Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
Sheriff Massimiano has been Sheriff of Berkshire County since November of 1978. Prior to his appointment as Sheriff of Berkshire County, he was the Chief Probation Officer of Berkshire Superior Court.
Sheriff Massimiano has served on numerous boards and agencies throughout the city, the county and the Commonwealth. He is past President of the Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association. Pittsfield voters recently returned Sheriff Massimiano to the city School Committee after an eighty-year absence, and he currently serves as School Committee Chairman. He is a former longtime member and Chairman of the Pittsfield Community Development Board. He is vigorously involved with the Berkshire County Drug Task Force and has a Deputy Sheriff assigned to it full-time.
Sheriff Massimiano has long had a community service program that serves the thirty towns and two cities of Berkshire County on a daily basis. He is actively involved in the Community Triad Program, which works with local police departments, the District Attorney’s Office and senior service agencies to address safety concerns of the Berkshire County elderly population. Sheriff Massimiano has instituted a Community Corrections Program with the Department of Probation Service of Massachusetts, and has opened a day Reporting Center in Pittsfield. There, participants are held accountable while they take part in programs that include alcohol and drug testing, electronic monitoring, substance abuse treatment and life skills programs, all geared toward successful and productive reintegration into the community.
Sheriff Massimiano has opened a Juvenile Resource Center at the old Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction in Pittsfield. There, the Sheriff operates a school suspension program in collaboration wit the Pittsfield Public Schools, plus a five-week “Summer Success” program where students who have failed 8th Grade have the opportunity to advance to high school. The Juvenile Resource Center also features a day reporting program for Berkshire Juvenile Court probationers and DYS youth under community supervision, plus a Juvenile Alternative Lockup Program that serves all police departments in Berkshire County.
Sheriff Massimiano also operates the Berkshire County Sheriffs Communications Center in Pittsfield, providing fire, police and ambulance emergency 911 and non-emergency communications for 23 communities in Berkshire County, Hampden County and Southern Vermont, 24 hours a day.
Sheriff Massimiano spearheaded the effort to build a new $34 million, 500-bed Jail and House of Correction for Berkshire County. The modern, twenty-first century correctional facility was formally dedicated Jan. 5, 2001, on a 25-acre site in Pittsfield. During this process, he oversaw the transition form the over-crowed, 1870-era jail that employed 79 full-time staff to a new state-of-the-art facility that employs more than 200 full-time staff. At the same time, he oversaw the Sheriff’s Office transition form a county to a state-funded agency.
As Chief Law Enforcement Officer in Berkshire County, Sheriff Massimiano oversees an average daily inmate population of nearly 300. In addition to the operation of the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction, the Community Corrections Center, the Juvenile Resourced Center and the Communications Center, he oversees the Sheriffs Office Uniform Division, a Civil Process Division and the Berkshire County Underwater Search and Rescue Team.
Committed to quality health care for inmates and staff, Sheriff Masimiano was the first Berkshire County Sheriff to appoint a full-time medical director, who oversees a department that has been commended and accredited by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care. The Sheriff also led the effort in 1999 to make the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction smoke-free, a policy that has been carried over to the new Jail and House of Correction campus and all Sheriffs’ Office facilities.
Having established the Sheriff’s Office watchwords of “professionalism with integrity and decency,” Sheriff Massimiano has instituted numerous education and treatment programs at the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction. The most recent is the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) Program, an intensive, federally funded program for inmates who are motivated to change their addictive behavior and become more productive members of the community upon their release from incarceration. Sheriff Massimiano was also the first Berkshire County Sheriff to offer open and competitive written examinations for correctional officer candidates, and was also the first to conduct Basic Recruit Training Academies in the county.
Sheriff Massimiano’s many charitable activities are well known throughout Berkshire County, and his Sheriff’s Office activities have raised many thousands of dollars for scholarship aid, tuition assistance and other contributions to the community, including $100,000 in tuition assistance for students to attend St. Joseph Central High School in Pittsfield. Other major beneficiaries of his charitable efforts have included Hospice Care in The Berkshire and Quinn’s Legacy Foundation, which is planning to build a sports and education facility in memory of Quinn Connally, a 12-year-old from Cheshire who died in a tragic hockey accident.
Sheriff Massimiano and his wife, Linda, reside in Pittsfield.
(Above) Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. (left) accepts the "Above and Beyond Award" from ESGR Ombudsman Coordinator Mr. Earl Bonett.
(Below) Prayer rug given to Sheriff Massimiano from one of his officers who was mobilized 3 years ago.
Massachusetts Committee: ESGR Employer Support of the Guard & Reserve: Berkshire County Sheriffs Office Receives "Above and Beyond Award"
Pittsfield, Massachusetts: On May 30, 2008, ESGR Ombudsman Director Mr. Earl Bonett visited the Berkshire County Sheriffs Office. The purpose of Mr. Bonett's visit was to present Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., the prestigious "Above and Beyond Award". Sheriff Massimiano was recommended for the award by one of the corrections officer who is also a Sergeant First Class in the Army Reserve. The officer recommended Sheriff Massimiano for the award because of his outstanding support and assistance during a recent mobilization.
In his office, Sheriff Massimiano proudly displays a Moslem Prayer Rug gifted to him by a previously deployed deputy. The tapestry notes a quick history of the 2005-2006 Middle East tour of that deputy. The Berkshire County Sheriffs Office employs approximately 200 Deputy Sheriffs and correction personnel. Of this group of dedicated civil servants, a number of them are members of the Guard and Reserve and 3 have been mobilized since September 11, 2001.
"District Attorney David F. Capeless Launches Web Site for DA's Office"
iBerkshires.com - January 08, 2009
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire District attorney's office has launched its own Web site, joining the growing number of elected officials online.
District Attorney David F. Capeless said the Web site, at www.mass.gov/berkshireda, includes plenty of helpful information.
"We have tried to design the site to be user friendly. The site will allow citizens to get to know the DA's office and its roles, responsibilities and services," said Capeless. "From the home page, information about the different units within the district attorney's office can be accessed. We have also provided information pertaining to the open meeting law, the Sex Offender Registry and victims rights."
The site also provides information about recent cases and legal decisions, and features articles about events and programs of interest involving the district attorney's office. News media services will be able to access and be provided updates, on releases and other information from the office through a RSS (real simple syndication) feed subscription service, which will provide alerts regarding new postings.
"The Web site also contains information on a variety of social and consumer protection topics and includes links to other websites that provide additional information and resources," said Capeless. "I am pleased we have been able to put this information on the web and hope that the Berkshire County community and people from other parts of the commonwealth will find the information helpful."
The Berkshire district attorney is the first of the Western Mass. offices to create an online presence. Most of the district attorneys in the eastern end of the state have had their own sites for some time. Hampden County and the Northwestern (Franklin and Hampshire counties) district attorneys are not online.
The Berkshire County site is hosted on the Massachusetts government Web portal, as is Essex County. By using the mass.gov design frameworks, said Capeless, his office joins other commonwealth agencies to provide a single face of state government, helping to achieve the goal of improving service to citizens and increasing civic engagement through a united Web presence.
Victims Rights and Sex Offenders?
Are Americans aware that.....
that because of the “victim’s rights laws/ rape shield laws” an ACCUSATION ALONE is sufficient for a conviction, a prison term of 5 to 25 years or even life and then being listed as a sex offender most likely for life?
Are Americans aware that NO evidence, NO witness, NO dates or times have to be given by the accuser and that the accusation itself is entered as evidence during a trial?
Are Americans aware that the accused CAN NOT defend themselves by supplying evidence or witnesses that can prove the accuser is lying and had a motive to lie?
Are Americans aware that a VERY large number of Registered Sex Offenders have never touched or raped anyone, let alone a child?
But guilt by association on the Sex Offender Registry labels them all as a pervert, a pedophile and a predator for life.
There is a huge difference between stealing a candy bar and robbing a bank, both crimes are considered theft but both are differentiated by law and society.
Are Americans aware that the current laws that label someone as a sex-offender in the U.S do not differentiate? Whether you are accused of teenage consensual sex, urinating in public, mooning or streaking, pinching or touching someone or being a serial rapist upon your return to society conviction and sentence will be the same.
Perhaps if the government advised Americans who is being labeled a sex offender today in America their scare tactics wouldn't be working.
from: Mary on: 01-08-2009
Weaving harmony in the schools
"A web of peer trust: Middle school students train to help resolve conflicts"
By Jenn Smith, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Tuesday, January 13, 2009
PITTSFIELD — City school officials and law enforcement authorities are hoping that a new class of kids can help make their jobs a little easier.
Twenty-two students from Herberg and Reid middle schools have graduated from the district's peer mediation program. And they say they are ready, willing and able to pave the way for more peace among their peers.
After Friday's ceremony at the Catholic Youth Center, Reid seventh-grader George Sommerville said his generation needs the attention.
"There are fights at my school. I was walking down the hall the other day and saw a few people arguing and then fists just started flying. I wanted to do this just to be able to help them," he said.
A fellow new peer mediator at Reid agreed. "I wanted to help everyone feel safe about coming to school," said Railea Rivera, Grade 6.
The program, which has been around for about 15 years, is organized and supervised by staff peer counselors Sharyl Noroian and Marygrace Brown. The recent peer mediation graduates, also known as "conflict managers," went through three days of training with these counselors and Reid teacher/trainer Stephen Collingsworth.
Brown said the students work hard and apply for the position. Each school has a team of 25 mediators each. And each year the counselors receive nearly a hundred applications from students interested in helping out.
In addition to training, the students take initiative to helping their classmates solve their problems, from fights with other students to disruptions at home to dealing with the daily trials of middle school life.
In doing this, they are require to make up any school work they miss.
"They give up their time to help others resolve their conflicts," Brown said.
In training, through dialogue and role play, they learned and reviewed the techniques of conflict resolution and the importance of confidentiality. Herberg's Principal Christopher Jacoby said the schools rely a great deal on the help of the peer mediators.
"You learn about all the great things that you can do to help the school and make it go a lot smoother," said Herberg seventh-grader Cam Burgess.
"Hopefully, the result of your work will mean less work for me and Sheriff (Carmen) Massimiano," said Berkshire Juvenile Court Judge Paul Perachi, who swore in the mediators with an oath of confidentiality.
"It takes courage to do this sort of thing. Not everyone is going to be as excited about you doing this as we are," said Massimiano to a ceremony crowd of students, educators and parents. "This is the easy part. The tough part awaits you."
Reid Principal then encouraged the students, "Things will get tough, but you wouldn't be here today if you didn't see things fairly. That's why you were picked. We think you can handle it."
"Jailed immigrants buoy budgets: US pays sheriffs $90 per day to hold those awaiting deportation"
By Maria Sacchetti, Boston Globe Staff, February 9, 2009
NORTH DARTMOUTH - In the newest wing of Bristol County jail, exclusively for immigrants facing deportation, inmates in sunshine-yellow uniforms pass the time in a stuffy dormitory playing cards, flipping through magazines, and chatting in Spanish, Portuguese, and Hebrew.
Anxiety and boredom fill the room. "It's been 10 months," one desperate-looking man told Sheriff Thomas Hodgson in Spanish during a recent tour of the only freestanding immigrant detention center in Massachusetts. "How long do I have to wait?"
The answer isn't clear. But Hodgson, and other sheriffs across the state, are glad to have them: For each immigrant, they receive an average of $90 a day.
Bristol and other cash-strapped county jails are increasingly embracing the immigration business, capitalizing on the soaring number of foreign-born detainees and the millions of federal dollars a year paid to incarcerate them. Bristol County alone has raked in $33 million since 2001, and has used the money to transform itself into a sprawling campus with a commissary, an ambulance communications center, and a "management accountability building" for regular meetings on jail operations.
"That money is a tremendous boost for us," said Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph D. McDonald Jr., whose jail houses 324 immigrants, up from 44 a decade ago, bringing in $15.6 million last year. "We aggressively try to market ourselves to get as many of those inmates into our doors as we can."
But advocates for immigrants say the government should dramatically reduce the number of detainees, by releasing them pending deportation. They complain about the burden on taxpayers - this year, the federal government budgeted $1.7 billion nationwide and $42.8 million in New England for detainees - and the risks to immigrants.
Last year, Hiu Lui Ng, 34, a native of China who overstayed his visa, died of cancer after being detained at the Wyatt Detention Facility in Rhode Island. A federal inquiry found that jail officials denied his requests for medical care and other services, and that has accelerated calls to release detainees such as Ng who do not have criminal records. In Massachusetts, a majority of detainees are being held for immigration violations, not crimes, and are kept apart from the general jail population.
"The man who died at Wyatt shouldn't have been in detention at all," said Sara Ignatius, executive director of the Boston-based Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project. "Eighty to 90 dollars a day to lock up somebody who's just overstayed their visa? It just seems like a very inappropriate way to spend federal money."
Nationwide, federal statistics show that 30,000 immigrant detainees are held on any given day, almost four times as many as in 1995. New England has an average of 1,365 detainees a day. Local federal officials did not have figures before 2003, but the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project said the tally is triple the number of detainees a decade ago.
Immigration lawyers and federal officials attribute the spike to a variety of circumstances: tougher immigration laws; heightened scrutiny of immigrants after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks; and intensified immigration raids around the country under the Bush administration.
Bruce Chadbourne, field office director for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said detaining immigrants ensures they are deported, but he cautioned that the process is not always swift. Nationally, detainees spend an average of 30 days in jail.
"It's not an easy process of just getting an order on a person, buying him a plane ticket, getting them a passport, and putting them on a plane and letting them go," he said.
The vast majority of immigrant detainees in New England are held at four Massachusetts jails, in Plymouth, Bristol, Suffolk, and Franklin counties. And they are transforming law enforcement in ways those sheriffs never envisioned.
In Franklin County, which houses 75 immigrants a day on average, triple the number 10 years ago, the sheriff just installed equipment so that immigrant detainees can have "video hearings" to save on transportation costs to court. In Plymouth, the sheriff's department often backs up federal immigration agents on sweeps. In Bristol County, officials transport immigrants as far away as Pennsylvania, and drive immigrants daily to immigration court in Boston, where the officers double as court security.
In the Suffolk County jail, 269 immigrants now fill Building 8, which was empty before 2003 because its open floor plan made it a security risk for the general prison population. Instead of having to remodel the new $20 million building, Sheriff Andrea Cabral began housing immigrants there, bringing in $10 million a year.
"The revenue that is generated from this has been a lifesaver for my budget," Cabral said. "Otherwise the building would be empty, and I'd be struggling a lot more with some of the issues that we've had."
County officials say the additional federal funding also benefits detainees themselves, by allowing them to stay near their families and lawyers instead of being spirited to a detention center in another region.
The extra funding, meanwhile, injects cash into communities that are struggling during the economic downturn. By expanding the number of immigrants, Bristol jail managed to build five buildings on the campus and expand services that help the entire county, such as a communications unit that patches ambulance drivers through to hospitals, the sheriff said.
"I could just sit here and be lazy and say that's somebody else's problem," Hodgson said of the decision to house immigrant detainees. "This is an opportunity for us to solve a lot of problems and benefit the people of our community."
One recent day, Hodgson led a Globe reporter on a tour of the cinder block-gray Bristol County campus - perhaps the jail that has been most transformed by immigration in Massachusetts. A cost-conscious Republican, he is not known for coddling inmates - he recently switched all inmates to Tang because it is cheaper than orange juice. He also believes illegal immigrants should be deported, in most cases.
But the son of an English immigrant has also lobbied Congress for reforms and worked with foreign officials to smooth the deportation process. He owns a vacation home in the Azores now because he has made so many consulting trips there.
During the tour, immigrants peppered him with questions, asking him when they can leave or complaining about healthcare, the food, or the stuffy air.
In the gymnasium, where immigrants sleep on bunk beds arranged in neat rows on the basketball court, an Iraqi national pointed to his misshapen elbow and said he needed medical care. After they chatted, the sheriff said the man was getting treatment.
Up the road, immigrants in the new $4.2 million immigration building begged the sheriff for information about their cases. But he said their fate is in the hands of federal officials and immigration judges.
The detainees, who do not have the right to grant interviews without the permission of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, expressed frustration that the reporter was not allowed to interview them.
"We don't know anything," an immigrant told Hodgson in Spanish. "Nothing, nothing, nothing."
Before he left, Hodgson stopped to chat with a young immigrant who said he had been in the United States almost 10 years. Sitting on the bunk, the man smiled as he told the sheriff about a picturesque little island off Portugal where he is from.
"I'll probably be going very soon," the man said in English.
Unlike regular inmates, immigrants do not know when their jail time will end and are not entitled to free lawyers to plead their case before a judge.
"It's not fair," complained one immigrant wearing a wedding ring.
"Nothing is fair," another man said, and made his way back to his bunk.
"Study: Mass. fifth in nation for adults in prison, probation or parole"
Boston Herald - Mar 2, 2009
By Laura Crimaldi
An astonishing one in 24 Bay State adults were either behind bars or under community supervision at the end of 2007, costing taxpayers ...
"States urged to improve probation, parole programs"
By DAVID CRARY – March 3, 2009
NEW YORK (AP) — The number of people on parole and probation across the United States has surged past 5 million, according to a new report which says financially struggling states can save money in the long run by investing in better supervision of these offenders.
The Pew Center on the States report, released Monday, says the number of people on probation or parole more than tripled to 5.1 million between 1982 and 2007. Including jail and prison inmates, the total population of the U.S. corrections system now exceeds 7.3 million — one of every 31 U.S. adults, it said.
The report also noted huge discrepancies among the states in regard to the total corrections population — one of every 13 adults in Georgia at one end of the scale, one of every 88 in New Hampshire at the other extreme. The racial gap also was stark — one of every 11 black adults is under correctional supervision, one of every 27 Hispanic adults, one of every 45 white adults.
The report notes that construction of new prisons will be increasingly rare as most states grapple with budget crises. It said improved community-supervision strategies represent one of the most feasible ways for states to limit corrections spending and reduce recidivism.
"A crisis is a terrible thing to waste," said Susan Urahn, managing director of the Center on the States. "The economy opens a window of opportunity to do things that are not always easy to do."
At present, according to the report, prisons consume nearly 90 percent of state corrections spending, even though two-thirds of offenders under supervision are on parole or probation. Costs per year for a prison inmate average nearly $29,000, while average costs for managing parolees and probationers range from $1,250 to $2,750 a year.
Adam Gelb, director of Pew's Public Safety Performance Project, stressed that violent and incorrigible criminals need to be locked up, but contended that many prison inmates could be safely overseen in their communities at far lower cost.
"New community supervision strategies and technologies need to be strengthened and expanded, not scaled back," he said. "Cutting them may appear to save a few dollars, but it doesn't. It will fuel the cycle of more crime, more victims, more arrests, more prosecutions, and still more imprisonment."
Among the report's recommendations for strengthening community corrections:
_Base intervention programs on sound research about what works to reduce recidivism.
_Use advances in supervision technology such as electronic monitoring and rapid-result alcohol and drug tests.
_Create incentives for offenders and supervision agencies to succeed, and monitor their performance.
_Impose swift, certain sanctions for offenders who break the rules of their release.
The report cited a probation program in Hawaii as a positive example. Under that program, which offers extensive counseling and treatment, failure to comply with random drug tests, office visits and treatment requirements is met with immediate sanctions — typically a few days in jail. Participants have proven far less likely than others on probation to be arrested for new crimes and sent back to prison.
Arizona was praised for a law enacted last year that creates performance incentives for offenders and the county-based probation supervision system. For every month that an offender complies with the terms of supervision, the length of probation can be shortened by up to 20 days. Slip-ups result in a loss of the earned time.
Kansas has made headway in curbing its prison population by offering grants to community corrections programs that cut down on the high number of probation and parole rule-breakers being sent back to prison solely for such rule violations.
The Pew report says strong community supervision programs for low-risk offenders not only cost much less than incarceration but, when properly funded and managed, can cut recidivism by as much as 30 percent. That could be a huge boon to the states, which, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers, spent a record $51.7 billion on corrections last fiscal year — up 300 percent over two decades.
The five states with the highest rate of adults under correctional supervision were Georgia, Idaho, Texas, Massachusetts and Ohio, the report said. Those with lowest rates were New Hampshire, Maine, West Virginia, Utah and North Dakota.
According to Pew's figures, Idaho had 48,663 people on probation in 2007 — the key factor in its ranking. Idaho corrections officials said the figure was too high, based on their count of about 26,900 offenders on supervised probation, but they did not immediately provide figures on additional offenders on unsupervised probation.
Georgia, although only the ninth most populous state, had more people on probation in 2007 — 435,631 — than any other state, according to the report. The state Department of Corrections said the number might be inflated by double-counting of some offenders, but it has previously acknowledged that its probation population is the highest per capita in the country.
One consequence, according to the department, is that Georgia probation officers have had a caseload far higher than the national average.
Gelb said advanced technology could be used to improve supervision without necessarily hiring more personnel. For example, he said some states now allow parolees and probationers to periodically report to an ATM-like kiosk, rather than to a person in a state office.
In any case, said Gelb, states could double or triple the amount they spend supervising parolees and probationers, and still come out ahead financially if the result was a reduced prison population.
In Alaska, where construction is set to begin soon on a new medium-security prison, the corrections commissioner said he agreed with the thrust of the Pew report.
"Confinement is the foundation of the system, but we are trying to move away from the philosophy that incarceration will solve the problem," said Joseph Schmidt. "What we are hoping is that we don't grow our prison population to a point where we can't afford it."
On the Net:
Pew report: http://www.pewcenteronthestates.org/
3/2009, The Associated Press.
"Correction: Corrections Cost-Mass story", The Boston Globe, March 4, 2009
BOSTON --In a March 2 story about a study on Massachusetts corrections spending, The Associated Press incorrectly identified the source. The study was produced by the Pew Center on the States, not the Pew Research Center on the States.
"Budget crunch hits jail"
By David Pepose, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Sunday, March 08, 2009
PITTSFIELD — The five members of the Berkshire County legislative delegation have vowed to lobby Beacon Hill for additional funding after meeting with Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano Jr. to discuss the $1.4 million budget cut hitting the Berkshire County House of Corrections.
"The sheriff is taking a hit, a big-time hit," State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, said Saturday. "The whole delegation is working to relieve some of the financial pain."
The sheriff's budget runs approximately $16 million, and was cut by $1.4 million in the governor's latest round of budget cuts.
According to State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, sheriffs' budgets across the board have suffered 14 to 15 percent cuts in their budget from their final fiscal year 2009 numbers.
"That means a lot of different things in the sheriff's department," he said, "But the first thing that means when 80 percent of their costs are incurred for personnel, that would mean layoffs if the governor's proposal is adopted in full."
While the sheriff has already cut costs by not hiring vacated positions and reducing energy expenditures, the representatives said they discussed methods of maximizing the budget.
"One thing I proposed is that there's people in the House of Corrections now that I think could be better served for less money by slapping a bracelet on them with GPS," said Pignatelli. "You'd have them try to go to work and be productive citizens, for those with lesser sentences... it's more beneficial for a rehabilitative state."
While similar methods of home confinement have been suggested by leaders such as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Downing disagreed with the implications of that program.
"I think we would all like to stay away from that option... I think people are uneasy about that," Downing said.
Rep. Denis Guyer, D-Dalton, said that one of the chief burdens on the penitentiary system, as opposed to Mass Health, was paying for inmate medical expenses.
"For example, we heard there was somebody who was sentenced to the jail for a period of four months ... when she was sentenced, she was in her seventh month of pregnancy," said Guyer.
"We were wondering why would you send somebody like that to jail who was obviously going to have a baby?"
Guyer added, "the entire delegation was there and everybody is concerned because its not just the jail in my district, but its the jail in the entire county."
"As more people are being sentenced to jail, and the Sheriff doesn't have the resources, namely personnel to deal with that, it puts him in a very tough spot," said Pignatelli.
"As the recession continues, the pressures on the court system and the House of Corrections are going to increase," he added.
JONATHAN MELLE'S Response:
Carmen C Massimiano II makes a whopping $123,209 per year + state benefits as Berkshire County Sheriff! He uses his office like a political hack who does the dirty business of Pittsfield area career Pols such as Andrea F Nuciforo II (aka Luciforo), who tried to jail me under false pretenses during the Spring 1998 -- nearly 11 years ago this coming May -- so that Sheriff Massimiano would have saw to it that both his jailer staff and inmate population would have abused me. In 2004, after I moved from my native Berkshire County, Massachusetts, to Southern New Hampshire, Carmen Massimiano told me on a return visit to my native Pittsfield that he knows that I know what he and Luciforo's political network of hack henchmen tried to do to me, but now that I live in NH -- where Carmen went to college -- that I should not feel safe and to not say anything about it. Carmen Massimiano is a hack henchman career Pol who abuses his power and authority! When Luciforo voted for Carmen Massimiano's 21% pay raise in 2005, it was Massachusetts politics at its worst! Now Carmen Massimiano wants more taxpayer money to run his jail! If I was the Governor of Massachusetts, I would either zero out Carmen's jail budget or demand that he resign his office for being one of the most corrupted pols EVER!
Jonathan A. Melle
Michael McCormack, left, and Richard Bretschneider.
Photo by Matthew West
"Angry legislators take aim at sheriffs over pay boosts"
By Marie Szaniszlo and Hillary Chabot, Friday, March 20, 2009, www.bostonherald.com, Local Politics
Top lawmakers yesterday raised a ruckus over a proposal to hike the salaries of two sheriffs who oversee sleepy towns, part of Gov. Deval Patrick’s bill to move seven county sheriffs under state control.
“This is not the time to be doing raises,” said Rep. Steven Walsh (D-Lynn), who said he would review the salary hikes. “We are sensitive to that in tough economic times.”
Sen. Robert O’Leary (D-Barnstable) also questioned the proposed raises, saying, “Frankly, the functions all sheriffs are involved in are not of equal merit.”
Patrick administration finance chief Leslie Kirwan defended the pay hikes during a legislative hearing on the bill yesterday, calling them a side issue to a bill that will make sheriffs’ budgets more predictable.
“It’s sensational that $50 million to $75 million of funding . . . is left to chance,” she said.
Patrick included nearly 27 percent raises for Nantucket Sheriff Richard Bretschneider and Dukes Sheriff Michael McCormack to win support for his bill, Kirwan said yesterday.
The bill increases both salaries from approximately $97,000 to $123,000 - the same level as the other 12 sheriffs in the state.
Both sheriffs serve in quaint islands off Cape Cod with very small populations. Bretschneider doesn’t oversee any prisoners.
“In this economy and these fiscal circumstances, to give them this fairly dramatic increase is a challenge. People are asking, ‘Why should we be doing this for people who have basically no inmates?’ ” said Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading).
While McCormack said he understood the bad timing of the raises, he said all 14 of the state’s sheriffs support them.
Article URL: www.bostonherald.com/news/politics/view.bg?articleid=1159826
Hampden County Sheriff Michael J. Ashe Hr., who won the Holyoke St. Patrick's Parade Committee's citizenship award in 2007, will be honored by the Western Massachusetts Boy Scout Council on April 29, 2009. File photo by Jim Sears.
"Western Mass. Boy Scouts to honor Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe"
By PATRICK JOHNSON, email@example.com, The Republican Newsroom, Saturday March 28, 2009, 1:25 P.M.
SPRINGFIELD - Hampden County Sheriff Michael J. Ashe Jr. will be this year's recipient of the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Western Massachusetts Boy Scout Council.
He will be honored at a ceremony planned for April 29 at the Chez Josef in Agawam.
The keynote speaker will be Hockey Hall of Famer Ray Bourque, who played for the Boston Bruins for 21 seasons and is the highest scoring player in the Bruins' history.
Ashe, who has served as sheriff for 35 years, was selected for the award based on his lifetime of public service, according to Scout Council Executive Larry Bystran.
"Sheriff Ashe has been a great public servant in our community," he said.
In particular, he cited the role the Sheriff's Department plays in the community, and the work the staff at the Hampden County Correctional Center at Stony Brook in Ludlow does with inmate rehabilitation.
"They do great work over there," Bystran said.
First elected sheriff in 1974 and re-elected five times since with no opposition, Ashe said this week, "I feel very, very honored to be selected."
He said he sees the award as being bestowed, not just to him, but to the staffers in his department who approach their jobs with professionalism and dedication.
"I feel the honor is for all of our work," he said.
The focus of the jail is rehabilitation, and not warehousing of inmates, Ashe said. People are admitted with mental problems, substance dependencies, and lack of education, and the corrections staff works with them to give them a foundation for stability upon release.
"Our staff steps up with integrity and dedication, and try to do the right thing by the inmates in trying to turn their lives around," he said
Ashe joins a list of notable recipients of the distinguished award, including Peter A. Picknelly and Peter L. Picknelly of Peter Pan Bus Lines; Peter F. Straley, president and chief executive officer of Health New England; Stephen A. Davis, of Ventry Industries, and Harry Courniotes, past president of American International College.
Straley, last year's recipient, will present the award to Ashe, and David W. Gladden, the regional president of TD Banknorth will be master of ceremonies.
Bystran said the banquet is the largest fund-raiser of the year for the area Scouts, and one of the biggest events of its type in the state.
If you go
Event: Western Massachusetts Boy Scout Council Distinguished Service Award
When: April 29, 2009, 6 p.m.
Where: Chez Josef, Agawam
Tickets: Call the Scout service center, (413) 594-9196; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
"Night club to open in Sabor spot"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Tuesday, March 31, 2009
PITTSFIELD — A Pittsfield businesswoman wants to convert a troubled downtown restaurant site into what she calls "a place to relax and feel secure."
And the city's Licensing Board on Monday backed Christine Langlois' plan, by transferring the liquor license from the former Sabor Bar & Grill to the new night club called "Groove Lounge."
The 25-year-old Langlois — who will be the sole owner of the night club — told the board it is replacing Sabor at 17 Wendell Ave. Ext., which closed a month ago due to the economy. During its three years of operation, Sabor had several liquor license violations, noise complaints and other late night problems — continuing a legacy created by several previous establishments at that location.
"This is a troubled place and a troubled venue," said Board Chairman Carmen C. Massimiano.
Langlois quickly replied, "We're hoping to turn it around."
Langlois and her attorney, Thomas J. Hamel of Pittsfield, outlined to the board how they will install surveillance cameras, hire an off-duty police officer to manage security, use metal detectors to prevent weapons inside the club, and require a dress code.
"We see a potential for an upscale lounge in the downtown," contended Hamel.
Langlois' safeguards to prevent trouble drew high praise from the board.
"This is the most extensive approach to a liquor license since I've been on the board," said Massimiano.
"I commend Miss Langlois for your courage," added Robert Quattrochi, "It's a monumental task you're taking on."
Langlois — who previously managed a local restaurant — also scored points with the board by saying she will be the full-time manager, since her name will be on the liquor license. Langlois is spending $20,000 to buy outright the license from Dana Carpenter of Northampton, who was an absentee manager; he held the license for Sabor owners Digna Gonzalez and her husband, Paul Saldana, because they were not American citizens.
Carpenter owns the building at 17 Wendell Ave. Ext., and Langlois has an 18-month lease there for the night club.
Groove Lounge, which Langlois expects to open by mid-May, will welcome patrons Monday through Saturday from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. with pop, rock, reggae, disco and other music, delivered by a state-of-the-art video disc jockey system.
Langlois told The Eagle after the meeting that she will have five other employees and be "spending a lot of money" to sound-proof the basement space — which has a capacity of 120 people — so as not to disturb the apartment-dwellers living in the upper floors.
Massimiano was pleased, saying some residents have felt the "quality of life was diminished" when Sabor was in business.
While the former Sabor Bar & Grill has a fully equipped kitchen, Langlois told the board she is not operating a full-scale restaurant, but rather offering simple comfort food such as "burgers and hot wings."
Langlois wouldn't say how much the entire project is costing her, but Massimiano commended her for starting a business now.
"You're swimming against the tide of the economy," Massimiano said.
Nevertheless, Langlois said after the meeting she felt this is the time to create a place where "all are welcome."
"Towns may rely more on inmate aid"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Monday, April 20, 2009
PITTSFIELD — A highly used but little publicized Community Service Program run by the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office may become more of an asset during rough economic times.
The program — manned by inmates from the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction who work in anonymity — has already performed six projects through March and could eclipse last year's mark of 21 — if there's an increase in requests.
"We might see it," said Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, "but so far we haven't."
The program, which has been in operation for more than 30 years is designed to assist — for free — nonprofit groups and the 32 Berkshire cities and towns with cleanup, painting, building repairs and — new this year — filling potholes.
"This is not a replacement for what cities and towns should be doing," said Massimiano. "Rather, (the program) is to have inmates make some form of restitution to the whole county."
Last month, Massimiano began the Pothole Patrol which assisted Pittsfield public works crews in smoothing over 1,250 potholes with asphalt patch. Jail and House of Correction Superintendent Jack Quinn said he was impressed with the six inmates who were on the job for two weeks.
"I'm sure the city would hire any one of those (guys)," said Quinn.
In addition, the Sheriff's Office has a contract with MassHighway so inmates can pick up trash along state roads, from April through October. Massimiano reports prisoners have collected an average of 4,500 bags of litter the last two years — more than double from 2006.
Quinn said roughly 25 percent of the 400-inmate population work the Community Service Program. He said the inmates are carefully screened and must establish a good work ethic while incarcerated, before being allowed out in public on a work detail.
The goal is to make the inmates a productive part of society when they are released.
"It doesn't always work," Massimiano conceded. Nevertheless, he said the program is worth the effort.
"It's good for the jail, good for the inmate population and good for the community," he added.
"Governor signs bill to give county sheriffs supplemental funds"
By Brian Fraga, email@example.com - southcoasttoday.com - May 16, 2009
Gov. Deval Patrick signed a supplemental budget Friday that allocates $32 million for the seven independent county sheriffs.
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson said his department will learn Monday exactly how much in supplemental funds it will receive. The sheriff had requested $5.4 million to cover operating expenses through June.
"I'm particularly pleased for our staff and families," Hodgson said. "We had been on edge for quite a few weeks now. There was a lot of anxiety. This will eliminate that."
On Thursday, the Legislature approved the supplemental bill, which the governor had filed last week to close an estimated $953 million shortfall for the remainder of the fiscal year.
The supplemental bill uses $412 million of federal stabilization money, draws $461 million from the state's rainy day fund and uses $50 million from the reserves of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority.
In the weeks before the governor filed the bill, Hodgson warned that his department would run out of money by May 21. He said he had stopped paying the medical and utility bills and had warned of a possible National Guard takeover of his facilities.
"This was, in fact, monies absolutely necessary for us to meet our basic operating expenses," Hodgson said. "I think this validates the fact that we weren't adequately funded at the beginning of the year."
State officials have not indicated whether they still plan to pursue an audit of the Bristol County Sheriff's programs and finances. The audit was suggested in a letter sent to Hodgson earlier this month.
"It's up to the state. They're certainly welcome," said Hodgson, who has called the audit request a political stunt and a "sham."
The City I Love
"Perachi ends career behind the bench"
By Brian Sullivan, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Thursday, May 28, 2009
You might think that Paul Perachi — the teacher, coach, high school principal, attorney and juvenile court judge — had it all figured out at an early age.
Well, hate to burst that bubble.
"I didn't chart any of this," said Perachi, the city native who will turn 70 early in July and take a mandated retirement from his current role as "your honor."
The longtime youth advocate — he and former Boys' Club director Jim Mooney for decades provided a beautiful one-two punch that kept many of our city teens balanced, happy and mindful of the rights and wrongs of the world — will be missed greatly from his role on the bench, largely because the only thing about Perachi that is greater than his concern for young people is the wonderful and generous heart that beats within him.
But, like the man said, he didn't really figure so many of his wonderful achievement would or could ever have taken place.
He wanted to be a state trooper, just like his Dad, whom he idolized. That didn't happen, although he said he would have been a good one.
He drove a Coca-Cola truck for a year and decided that wasn't going to be the real thing. He went to play basketball at North Adams State College — a teachers' college — when, in fact, he wasn't sure if we wanted to be a teacher at all.
Still, coming out of the service, he spent half a year teaching fourth grade at Egremont School and thought that he might spend his career teaching at that level.
Perachi then was recruited to St. Joseph's High to teach, coach basketball, be a guidance counselor and attend to many other duties at the Maplewood Avenue campus. Ahhh, said Perachi, who thought this is where he might end up for the rest of his life.
But once again, it wasn't to be. He interviewed for the principal's job at Lenox High — he was barely 30 — just for the sole purpose of getting some interview experience. He was mentored by former Mount Greylock Principal Bill Clark, who would engage Perachi that summer in mock interviews.
Doing it for the experience? Maybe, but guess who got the job? It was Perachi, and he was there for almost 20 years.
He earned a law degree and spent many years representing youthful offenders. Being a judge? It never crossed his mind. But Gov. William Weld appointed him to that position in 1995.
Perachi said he's had good fortune in his life and has often been in the right place at the right time. That's good, because so many have benefited from his patience and wisdom. It's good to spread that kind of stuff around, and Perachi did.
"The real beauty," he said, "is that I always enjoyed going to work no matter what job I had at the time."
As someone who has kept troubled youth on his radar for five decade, when Perachi said that today's Pittsfield kids are about the same as yesterday's Pittsfield kids, well, you have to believe him. The difference, he said, are the circumstances in which they exist.
"Parenting has always been a tough job," he said. "I tell people it's a job you can get without taking a test or getting a license.
"My wife (Janet) and I have two children and five grandchildren. None of them came with a set of directions. But we both had good sets of parents and we learned from them."
That cycle, said Perachi, does not exist now. Or if it did, it's been broken.
Berkshire County, he said, had the highest influx of child abuse and neglect filings in the state last year. He attributed that statistic to the fact that our social agencies here in the Berkshires do a fine job and are on top of matters.
Regardless, it's distressing to know that the more they dig, the more they find.
So, retirement looms and Perachi has been bitten by the photo bug. He likes taking pictures, so that guy behind the lens might be the former teacher, coach, attorney, principal and judge.
A final question. Does the judge get to keep the robe?
"I better," he said with a laugh. "I paid for it. They don't give you those."
Born at Hillcrest Hospital, the old one that used to be at the corner of Springside Avenue and North Street, Perachi has a lot of living left to do. He will find a way to contribute to the city — he always has and always will.
He's a Pittsfield original with a heart of gold.
Brian Sullivan is an Eagle editor and Pittsfield native.
The Boston Globe - OVERCROWDED INMATES
"Middlesex Jail prisoners reached a breaking point"
Letters - July 9, 2009
RE “PRISONERS force evacuation of jail: Vandalism was cause of flooding, sheriff reports’’ (Metro, July 6): The conditions under which we hold prisoners awaiting trial at Cambridge’s Middlesex Jail - prisoners who supposedly are presumed innocent until proven guilty - are scandalous. Instead of the legally guaranteed speedy trial, those awaiting trial can be held for months under confinement more severe than even the miserable conditions in our state prisons. Now we find out in the Globe that the jail held two and a half times more prisoners than the facility was intended to.
We blame the prisoners for the destruction of property that took place after nine detainees damaged a fire-suppression system. And in America we tend to hate anyone arrested for crimes, whether they are guilty or not. But at some point any of us would snap under such conditions and insist that we must be treated as human beings.
The Boston Globe - OVERCROWDED INMATES
"Facilities shrouded in secrecy"
Letters - July 9, 2009
IF MASSACHUSETTS jails and prisons were not so shrouded in secrecy, perhaps the detainees at the Middlesex Jail would have found an alternative to vandalism to expose their conditions of confinement (“Prisoners force evacuation of jail’’). Massachusetts legislators need to bring back uncensored and unchaperoned media access to prisons and jails, and reestablish an independent oversight commission that would create transparency and accountability in the prison system. The public could then understand the real reasons for prison overcrowding and support solutions other than endless expansion.
Nancy W. Ahmadifar
"Assault stopped at new club: Police restrain alleged assailant at Groove's opening night party"
By Conor Berry, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Wednesday, July 8, 2009
PITTSFIELD -- The city's newest dance club got off on the wrong foot when a niece of District Attorney David F. Capeless was allegedly assaulted there over the holiday weekend.
Friday night marked the grand opening of Club Groove, which now occupies the Wendell Avenue Extension space once inhabited by Sabor Bar & Grille and Club Red -- former establishments bedeviled by underage drinking and notorious for their rowdy, late-night crowds.
Despite precautionary measures taken by the club's new ownership to enhance security and weed out potential troublemakers, the alleged incident involving the district attorney's niece on opening night could could tarnish the fledgling club's reputation. Past problems at that same Wendell Avenue Extension address made the venue a known trouble sopt in the city.
According to Pittsfield police, Emily K. Capeless, 24, of Evelyn Park, and Kimberly M. Bernardo, 23, of Lakeway Drive, were assaulted by Nicholas R. Chapman, 24, of Caratina Drive, shortly after midnight Saturday.
Officer Christopher Colello said he was stationed outside the basement club when he heard a woman scream for help and noticed Chapman exiting the establishment with Capeless and Bernardo. Colello said he ordered Chapman to let go of Capeless after Chapman dragged her to the front of the club and "continued to grasp and shake her." Chapman then spit in the face of Bernardo, according to Colello.
"Due to Chapman's continued assaultive behavior, I forced Chapman to the ground, where he was subsequently ground-stabilized and placed in handcuffs," the officer stated in a report filed in Central Berkshire District Court, where Chapman is scheduled for arraignment today on two misdemeanor counts of assault and battery.
Chapman is Bernardo's former boyfriend, said police, noting that the couple had dated for about three years.
Capeless told police the former couple got into an argument inside the club, where Chapman allegedly spit on Bernardo and threw a drink on her. Capeless said she tried to breakup the fight before it spilled outside.
Capeless suffered scrapes to her knees during the fracas but declined medical attention at the scene, police said.
It was not immediately clear why Chapman's arraignment was postponed until today, but a delay might have been necessary to line up an outside prosecutor to avoid a potential conflict of interest. District Attorney Capeless declined to comment on whether a prosecutor from another jurisdiction would handle the arraignment, considering his ties to one of the alleged victims.
Outside prosecutors are occasionally used in cases involving family or staff members of a district attorney's office. For example, a prosecutor from the office of Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth D. "Betsy" Scheibel was necessary in a case involving Berkshire Assistant District Attorney Marianne Shelvey, who was threatened in court last year by a defendant.
Club Groove's owner, Christine Langlois, recently told The Eagle that she hoped to stave off trouble at the Wendell Avenue Extension club by catering to a 21-plus crowd, scanning IDs at the door, and enforcing a strict "dress-to-impress" dress code.
"We want to attract a little bit of everybody," Langlois said in an interview with the newspaper last week. "But we want everybody to feel safe."
Some city officials expressed reservations about yet another late-night club taking over that address when Langlois first floated plans for her new club last spring.
"This is a troubled place and a troubled venue," Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., chairman of the city's liscensing board, said during a March hearing about the club.
To reach Conor Berry: firstname.lastname@example.org; (413) 496-6249.
"Inmate found dead at Mass. women's prison"
Associated Press, Wednesday, July 22, 2009
FRAMINGHAM, Mass. (AP) -- Massachusetts prisons officials say an inmate at the state's main women's prison has been found hanged in her cell in an apparent suicide.
A Department of Correction spokeswoman says 22-year-old Christina Morando was found in her cell at MCI-Framingham on Sunday night. She was taken to MetroWest Medical Center where she was pronounced dead. Morando was serving a two- to six-year sentence on an armed assault conviction.
The spokeswoman says two other inmates at MCI-Framingham were hospitalized over the weekend following suicide attempts.
Morando's death remains under investigation.
There have been at least three suicides at state prisons this year.
Leslie Walker of the inmate advocacy group Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services called the death troubling.
"Politicians on parade at sheriff's clambake"
By MICHAEL McAULIFFE, email@example.com - The Springfield Republican Online, Thursday, August 20, 2009
AGAWAM - There was not the feeling that surrounded the event in 1996, when U.S. John F. Kerry was locked in a tough re-election campaign with then Gov. William F. Weld and "60 Minutes" was on the scene. But there were still plenty of people having a good time Wednesday at the 32nd Annual Clambake hosted by Hampden County Sheriff Michael J. Ashe Jr. - including a number of elected officials.
In attendance at the Six Flags New England picnic grove were U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst; Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker; Steve Grossman, who is running for state treasurer and who ran for governor in 2002; Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, who said he is leaning toward running for governor; and Secretary of State William F. Galvin.
Among other office holders at the event were Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and City Councilor Bud L. Williams, who is seeking to oust Sarno in the November election.
And among the nonpoliticos was University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach Derek Kellogg, a longtime friend of the Ashe family.
Ashe said he never imagined the clambake taking place 32 times, but the late-summer event and its mix of socializing and politics became a part of life for more than a few people.
"This is a can't miss event," Sarno said.
"This is the official campaign kickoff," said Williams, and he wasn't talking only about his campaign.
The food served Wednesday included hot dogs, hamburgers, clams, clam chowder, chicken and steak, and the event typically draws about 2,000 people.
Cahill, who was a Democrat when he became treasurer, is now registered as an unenrolled voter. He said he will announce whether or not he will run for the top office on Beacon Hill shortly after Labor Day.
"It's likely that I'll be in," he said.
Many of the politicians who attended the clambake had showed up earlier Wednesday at the 1st Annual Massachusetts Latino Chamber of Commerce pig roast picnic at Nuestras Raices Farm in Holyoke.
Staff writer Mike Plaisance contributed to this report.
"Politicians from all over Massachusetts kick off campaigns at Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe's 32nd Annual Clambake"
By MICHAEL McAULIFFE - firstname.lastname@example.org - The Republican Newsroom, Wednesday August 19, 2009
John P. Counter, left, president of the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club, meets Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, center, and Hampden County Sheriff Michael J. Ashe Jr. Wednesday night at Ashe's 32nd Annual Clambake at Six Flags New England in Agawam. (Photo by Dave Roback / The Republican)
U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, Franklin County Sheriff Frederick B. Macdonald, Deputy James E. Capen and Warren Hill of Westfield gather at the at Sheriff Ash's annual clambake Wednesday. (Photo by Dave Roback / The Republican)
Sheriff Michael Ashe holds annual clambake
"Hospice, nursing care unite"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Thursday, September 10, 2009
PITTSFIELD -- Berkshire Healthcare Systems Inc. -- the state's largest nonprofit nursing home company -- and HospiceCare in the Berkshires have become one in a merger that officials of both organizations say will be mutually beneficial.
Berkshire Healthcare operates 16 rehabilitation and nursing facilities, including six in Berkshire County, and Kimball Farms Lifecare retirement community and nursing center in Lenox. The long-term care company is independent of Berkshire Health Systems, the parent company of Berkshire Medical Center and Fairview Hospital.
HospiceCare, founded in 1980, provides comprehensive hospice services to about 90 terminally-ill patients and their families each day.
"It's a natural fit we both serve the community together," said William C. Jones, executive vice president of Berkshire Healthcare. "We both have not-for-profit status, are mission driven and serve an overlapping population in the Berkshires."
Sully Garofano, who been the president of HospiceCare's board of directors, agreed.
"We've had the benefit of working close through the years," he said. "Now, we'll work closer."
Garofano will now chair the newly formed eight-member Hospice Advisory Committee that will answer to Berkshire Healthcare's Board of Directors now governing both organizations. The committee will consist of six HospiceCare representatives and two from Berkshire Healthcare.
Aside from the dissolution of its board, HospiceCare will remain intact -- which means no layoffs.
"Everything stays the same," said Jones. "We're not interested in making adjustments to HospiceCare."
Denise R. Granger will continue as the executive director of an agency with annual budget of $7 million that employees 55 to 60 and relies on 120 volunteers -- a number that could grow due to the merger.
"I think our volunteer base will increase within 24 hours of people hearing this," predicted Robin McGraw of HospiceCare, citing Berkshire Healthcare's good reputation as the reason.
McGraw said HospiceCare will continue to do its own fundraising to provide services and programs not covered by Medicare and other insurance providers.
"Hospice will be able to do more by serving larger numbers of people and providing families a broader scope of services," said Berkshire Healthcare Board of Directors Chairman Carmen C. Massimiano Jr.
The union also "couldn't come at a better time," said McGraw, referring to HospiceCare achieving fiscal stability. He and others praised Granger for maintaining a balanced budget for the second year in a row, after the agency suffered its first-ever deficit in 2007 of $523,000.
HospiceCare is also rebounding from its failed attempt to build a $12 million Hospice House at its headquarters on 877 South St. in Pittsfield. The agency broke ground in January 2008 on the 12-patient facility to provide 24-hour care to dying patients, only to suspend the project two months later. Officials cited increasing costs and the inability to secure local financing in a troubled economy as reasons for halting construction before it began.
Nevertheless, Hospice Care officials said they are interested in revisiting the project.
"Whether we build that house is not a question we can answer now," said McGraw.
But personally, he, Garofano and Brian Fairbank still want Hospice House to eventually become a reality.
"I will put every bit of energy I have to get that done," said Fairbank, a former HospiceCare board member.
Massimiano also supports the concept, but expects the Hospice Advisory Committee would make the recommendation on such a project needing approval from Berkshire Healthcare's board.
Richard Bretschneider was elected sheriff in 1998. His term expires next year, and some people doubt he will be reelected. (Rob Benchley)
"Sheriff’s clashes with officials create big waves in Nantucket"
By Jenna Russell, Boston Globe Staff, October 11, 2009
NANTUCKET - Richard Bretschneider presides over the smallest sheriff’s office in the state. He is the only Massachusetts sheriff with no jail. Yet despite his modest duties, Bretschneider, 50, has wielded unexpected power on this island 30 miles offshore - and become a deeply controversial figure.
Now, with his term set to expire next year, the Nantucket sheriff is facing a dramatic shift in stature. On Jan. 1, the state will take over his and six other county sheriffs’ offices. Bretschneider’s pay will be cut nearly 30 percent. He will also be stripped of his ties to a lucrative tax fund that imbued his tiny office with disproportionate luster and clout.
The change could end a strange and fractured chapter on Nantucket.
The sheriff is, by all accounts, a gifted politician, charming old ladies, dropping Yiddish words into chats with Jewish islanders, passing out wiffle ball bats at the local doughnut shop. But for every islander who voices admiration, another is quick to call him an embarrassment.
Since his election in 1998, he has been fined by the State Ethics Commission, slapped with a $15,000 penalty for campaign finance violations, and arrested for violating a restraining order. He has become famous - or infamous, depending on whom you ask - for spending his share of Nantucket’s deeds excise fund, doling out gifts to a dizzying array of civic groups and institutions. The practice helped him win reelection in 2004, islanders said, and invited a sharp crackdown by county commis sioners.
Bretschneider vigorously defends his spending and job performance. A Nantucket police officer for 17 years before he defeated the incumbent sheriff by a handful of votes, Bretschneider insists he has drawn fire because he is an outsider who grew up in New York and upset the status quo, and because of greed among other island officials.
“From day one they started slamming me,’’ he said. “It’s a very small old-boys network on Nantucket.’’
Town officials say their conflict with the sheriff has never been personal.
“It seems personal for him, but we’re just trying to comply with the law,’’ said Libby Gibson, the town manager.
At the heart of the controversy surrounding the sheriff is his role in managing the deeds excise fund, money generated by taxes on real estate transfers, a hefty portion of which is set aside to run the sheriff’s office.
At its peak, that sum exceeded $1 million per year. In every other county, the fund is not enough to cover operating costs. But on Nantucket, where real estate prices are high and there is no jail to pay for, the fund has provided a substantial annual surplus. The sheriff has clashed with county officials for years over how to use that money.
The sheriff saw few limits. In 2004 and 2005, for example, he spent $70,000 on defibrillators for Nantucket Cottage Hospital, $1,385 for a pool table for the Boys & Girls Club, $4,500 for children’s puppet shows, and $1,078 to send two high school cheerleaders to Orlando for a performance, among other items, according to a review by the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror.
Under the law, the money must be spent for law enforcement purposes - a definition Bretschneider tried to stretch while Nantucket selectmen, who double as county commissioners, strained to rein him in.
“They’re all very nice things to do, but unfortunately, they don’t meet the criteria,’’ Selectman Brian Chadwick said. “His ability to fund whatever he wanted made him a very popular person.’’
The son of a New York City firefighter, raised in Queens with summers on Nantucket, Bretschneider said his father’s example drew him to public service.
He shares a cramped, one-room office with his two full-time employees on the second floor of Nantucket’s government building, but said he is rarely there because his duties - collecting delinquent child support, mediating evictions, seeing that prisoners are transported to jail on the Cape - take him out around the island, where he is a familiar sight at the wheel of his sport utility vehicle.
He bristles at critics who contend he has little to do, saying they have no idea what he’s up to.
Islanders were reluctant to criticize the sheriff to a reporter. Outside the Downyflake coffee shop, where locals jockeyed for scarce parking spaces, several residents smirked when asked about him. “I know him too well,’’ an elderly man said with a grimace, slamming his car into reverse. “Got to go.’’
At the IGA market, though, supporters piped up. “Any time I’ve needed help, he’s been there,’’ said Victoria Young.
Some have questioned his choice of causes. He spent thousands on cellphones and dogs for the State Police and paid $750 for a brake job on one of their vehicles, frustrating local officials. When the town stopped payment on a $50,000 check he wrote for two retinal eye scanners to identify missing persons - one for Nantucket and one for Martha’s Vineyard - he threatened legal action. Tensions escalated further when town officials hatched plans to build a $15 million police station, and asserted they had the right to tap the sheriff’s fund.
“They’ve been treating me like a department head, and I am not a department head,’’ said the sheriff, whose budget is approved by the state. “I don’t work for these people.’’
Meanwhile, the sheriff was making other news. In 2005, the state found he had failed to disclose all his campaign spending. In 2006, he was arrested for violating a restraining order taken out by his then-wife. In 2007, the State Ethics Commission ruled that he had used his position as sheriff to buy a house from someone he was evicting. He says his arrest was groundless - the charge was dismissed - and he rejects the ethics claim, saying he had known the family who owned the property for years.
There is evidence the island may have had its fill. Town Clerk Catherine Stover said she receives inquiries “almost every day’’ about how to run for sheriff. Of 109 people who responded last week to a question on an island website, yackon.com, 56 percent said they don’t like Bretschneider and wouldn’t vote for him. Another 11 percent said they do like him - but wouldn’t vote for him either.
As a result of the looming state takeover, the tax money now sent to the sheriff will instead flow directly to the state. A special provision in the legislation, which he approved, will give Nantucket $250,000 a year for 20 years to pay for its new police station.
Legislators also cut Bretschneider’s salary from $97,000 to $71,000 to reflect his lesser duties, and barred him from collecting extra fees for serving papers. He says the cut is unfair because other sheriffs have hundreds of employees to delegate work to, while he must handle most of the load on his own.
Divorced, with sole custody of his son, he said he isn’t sure how he will get by. Last month, he sued the Board of Selectmen for $86,000 in unused vacation and sick time. Selectmen say he is not entitled to the money.
Despite the constant sparring and changes bearing down, the sheriff said he plans to seek a third term.
Last time, he noted, he wiped out the competition. “But I don’t want to be cocky,’’ he said. “I’ll work as hard as I can.’’
"Correction agencies’ budgets soaring: Exceeds most other Mass. offices, study says"
By Jonathan Saltzman, Boston Globe Staff, December 3, 2009
Spending on correction agencies in Massachusetts has exploded in the past decade despite only a modest increase in the number of people incarcerated and now accounts for a bigger chunk of the state budget than each of the departments that oversee higher education, social services, and public health, according to a new study.
The study by the Boston Foundation says the more than $1.2 billion spent this year on correction stems largely from a decades-old, lock-’em-up approach that has put about 11,000 people in state prisons and about 14,000 people in county jails, resulting in mammoth labor and facility costs.
Spending on prisons, jails, probation, and parole exceeds every form of state spending this year except money funneled to public elementary and secondary schools and to communities as local aid, according to the 33-page study, which will be made public today. Spending on probation alone has soared 163 percent in the past 10 years.
Even during the recession this year - when the state has slashed what it spends on local aid, higher education, and public health - correction funding has largely been spared.
“Rising corrections costs might be acceptable if public safety is improved, if the corrections system is run efficiently and transparently, and if recidivism is reduced,’’ the report says. “Growing corrections budgets would probably be acceptable if the prison population grew substantially in response to higher crime rates. Yet none of these are what drove the growth of the corrections budget over the past 10 years.’’
Indeed, the number of people incarcerated has largely leveled off after skyrocketing in the 1980s and early 1990s, the researchers found, and the rate of freed prisoners committing new crimes has barely changed.
Massachusetts, the study says, has hewed to a philosophy of “safety at any price,’’ even though the financially strapped state can no longer afford it and the spending has made little difference.
The study could be influential in shaping next year’s budget debate. Recent studies by the Boston Foundation put a spotlight on other criminal justice issues, including proposals to loosen the criminal offender record information system, or CORI, to make it easier for former prison convicts to get jobs.
“Our whole approach to corrections in Massachusetts needs a searching reexamination,’’ Paul S. Grogan, president and CEO of the Boston Foundation, said yesterday. “We hope the report is a prod to do that.’’
Massachusetts, the report says, should follow the lead of other cash-starved states that have recently cut unsustainable correction spending and reduced recidivism rates through various reforms. Those changes include making more nonviolent prisoners eligible for supervised parole, shortening sentences for offenders who complete education and substance abuse programs, and eliminating certain mandatory minimum drug sentences.
“This is happening across the country, and we just seem stuck,’’ Leonard W. Engel, senior policy analyst for the Crime and Justice Institute and author of the report commissioned by the Boston Foundation, said in an interview.
The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, which oversees the prisons and parole board, declined to comment on the study until it is made public, spokesman Terrel Harris said. Mary Beth Heffernan, Governor Deval Patrick’s undersecretary for criminal justice in the office, is expected to be on a panel that will discuss the report this morning at the Boston Foundation.
Coria Holland, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Commissioner of Probation, declined to comment on the study. That office is part of the state court system.
Legislative leaders said they wanted to see the report before commenting.
Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said the report shows that a trend his foundation observed six years ago has continued despite deep cuts to other state programs. In a 2003 study, Widmer’s foundation said spending on prisons and jails would surpass spending on higher education the following year, the first time that had happened in decades.
“We keep investing more and more in corrections, which at the same time is crowding out spending on other important priorities, like a whole range of human services,’’ Widmer said yesterday.
Massachusetts is one of many states that adopted a tough-on-crime approach beginning in the 1980s, partly in response to emotional reactions to high-profile crimes and because of a “lack of political will to challenge soft-on-crime demagoguery,’’ the study says. That tack caused prison populations across the country to skyrocket and state budgets to balloon.
In Massachusetts, the number of people held in state prisons surged by 300 percent, and the number in county jails by about 320 percent, from 1980 to the mid-1990s, the researchers say.
In the past decade, though, the number of people incarcerated in the state has risen by about 5 percent. Budgets, however, have continued to mushroom. The growth, the researchers say, reflects a fact of life about most correction agencies nationwide: They get generous funding in good times and avoid deep cuts in bad times.
From fiscal year 1998 to fiscal year 2008, the Massachusetts Department of Correction budget increased by more than 12 percent, the Sheriff’s Department budgets for all counties more than 20 percent, and the Probation Department by a staggering 163 percent, the report said. (The Parole Department has risen by less than 3 percent.)
Engel said he contacted probation officials to find out why their budget soared but got few explanations, aside from the fact that the department’s caseload grew in 2004 when it began supervising low-risk offenders transferred from district court.
“We kept running up against a lack of information,’’ Engel said.
The study says much of the spending in prisons stems from high facility and labor costs, and cites a controversial 2004 report commissioned by the Mitt Romney administration. That report found that Massachusetts prisons had the second-highest ratio of staff to inmates in the country, and that the correction officers were the third-highest paid.
It also found that staffing expenditures soared 56 percent from 1995 to 2003, to $312 million, and that much of the increase stemmed from overtime costs and a contract with the union that represents correction officers.
Steve Kenneway, president of the union that represents about 5,000 prison correction officers, said yesterday that spending on the prisons has risen dramatically, particularly in the past two years, but that it has nothing to do with pay to his members.
Governor Patrick has signed two contracts that will give his members a 21 percent wage increase over nine years, Kenneway said. “That’s less than 3 percent’’ a year, he said.
Kenneway said costs have spiraled because prisons are spending more to treat mentally ill inmates and are trying to address a recent surge in suicides. He also said that the past two governors have coddled inmates.
Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at email@example.com.
Sons of Frank J. Scago Jr., Frank III, green shirt, and Ryan embrace at a service for their father held Sunday at The Boys and Girls Club in Pittsfield. (Darren Vanden Berge / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
"Remembering our Frankie"
By Brian Sullivan, The Berkshire Eagle, March 15, 2010
PITTSFIELD -- It was, said older brother Bill Gardner, exactly what Frank Scago Jr. would have wanted.
It was, said his wife Judy, exactly the opposite of what her husband would have wanted.
It was, for the more than 700 in attendance on Sunday afternoon at the Pittsfield Boys and Girls Club, a chance to say farewell to Scago, who was one of Berkshire County's all-time athletic greats and who was heralded by speakers that included family and friends as an equally prolific family man.
Scago, who died Tuesday night at the age of 62 following a valiant three-year fight with leukemia, was again the show at the Boys and Girls Club gymnasium, where during the early to mid-1960s he torched the nets with a style not seen since.
Scago, who graduated from St. Joseph's High School in 1965, remains third on the list of Berkshire County boys' basketball scorers with 1,520 points. It's a total that carries an extra punch because his varsity career was limited in the day to three years and there was no three-point line from which to tack on extra points.
He played junior varsity ball at the former Pittsfleld Armory on Columbus Avenue. But the Boys and Girls Club gymnasium opened during his sophomore year and Scago would christen the venue in high style and with a dominance and flair the county hasn't seen since.
Equally a star on the gridiron, Scago quarterbacked the St. Joe's team to an unbeaten season in the fall of 1964.
He remains arguably the greatest football-basketball athlete in the history of Berkshire County sports.
Said Judy Scago about Sunday's celebration of her husband's life, which included a photographic slide show, "Frankie didn't want anything like this. He's up there cursing me now."
If pushed, Gardner said, then this was exactly what Frank Scago Jr. would have preferred.
"It's casual," said Gardner. "It's what Frank would have wanted. He wasn't much for wearing ties."
The event was hosted by the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department. Scago worked for many years at the local House of Correction & Jail, and retired as its director of security.
Scago's sons, Ryan Scago and Frank Scago III, paid verbal tributes to their father. Ryan looked to the southeast corner of the gymnasium where Frank Jr. used to stand and watch his sons play basketball for St. Joe's. It was a family tradition of sorts, because Frank Scago Sr. also watched Junior play from that same spot.
"Today is not just about sports," Judy Scago said. "It's about his entire life."
Said Ryan, "The days of sitting around the table and talking about life's ups and downs are gone. I had more than a dad, I had a best friend.
Ryan drew a laugh from the crowd with his next thought.
"I'll miss being on the green and missing a 3-foot putt and having him there to tell me I choked."
He then added, "It's important we move on and try to live with the attitude and lifestyle he had."
Added son Frank Scago III, "His accomplishments as a father far outweighed what he did athletically. He always told us if we get knocked down, then get up and get back into the fight."
Sister Cecelia James, who taught Scago during his years at St. Joe's, spoke fondly of her former student.
"Frankie used to tell me about all his [basketball] moves," James said. "I didn't really know what he was talking about. But I know this, the best move he ever made was to marry Judy."
Steve Ciepiela, a Pittsfield High athletic star in the early 1960s, worked with Scago at the county jail for many years.
"You always hope that people respect you," Ciepiela said. "That's what this is about today. Frank lived life in a simple way, and this event is kind of a come-as-you-are thing. Nothing fancy, because that wasn't who Frank was.
"He played with a lot of heart and lived the same way. He'd stay right with you as long as you needed him. He was always there."
Brian Sullivan can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org or (413) 496-6221.
The City I Love: "Scago and Massimiano: The ultimate odd couple"
By Brian Sullivan, (op-ed) Column, The Berkshire Eagle, March 15, 2010
In retrospect, the ultimate odd couple. On further review you find yourself saying "why not."
The 50-year friendship between Frank Scago Jr., and Berkshire County Sherriff Carmen C. Massimiano Jr. began at the Pittsfield Boys and Girls Club, where both men cut their teeth athletically as kids seeking sports glory.
And it was Massimiano on Sunday afternoon at the Boys and Girls Club who had the sad task of saying a final farewell to his longtime friend and employee. Scago, the prolific basketball guard at St. Joseph's High School in the mid-1960s, emerged from trouble with the law to become a "guard" at the Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction and would ascend to being the jail's director of security and one of Massimiano's key right-hand men.
Scago, who died from complications of leukemia on Tuesday night at age 62, would have turned another year older this Tuesday. His story is one of redemption -- a lifelong blue-collar struggle he eventually won with the help of his wife, Judy, and validated by their success in raising sons Ryan and Frank III.
A strange story indeed, because after Scago chased athletic glory at St. Joe's for three years, it was Massimiano who had to spend time chasing Scago 10 years hence.
"Frank's battle with leukemia," said Massimiano prior to Sunday's emotional ceremony, "was just another hill for him to climb. He has always had a reservoir of strength and courage from which he could call upon, and he was forced to do that again these past few years.
"And it's been tough for him with bone marrow treatments. The stem cell research that was stopped might have been part of his cure. It's too bad that never was allowed to continue."
The Scago-Massimiano relationship took a very bizarre twist in the late 1970s, a storyline told now with humor but at the time no laughing matter. It was Ryan Scago, while speaking to the assembly on Sunday at the Boys and Girls Club, who said he'd miss hearing stories from his dad about his "life on the run."
Truth, for sure, can be stranger than fiction. In Scago's case, it certainly was.
The former St. Joe's athletic star was convicted of burglary in 1972 in this city and convicted again in 1975 in Springfield on charges of receiving stolen property and carrying a firearm illegally. He was arrested in Schenectady, N.Y., in 1975, for being out of state and violating the probationary terms of his 1972 conviction.
He had been, as Ryan Scago put it, "on the run."
Massimiano, who was chief probation officer at the time, was in charge of tracking Scago down. He told that story on Sunday. Frank was apparently laying low in Buffalo.
"I remember having the Royal Canadian Mounties on one line and the FBI on another line," Massimiano said. "I finally put the two phones together and said ‘you guys can just talk to each other.' "
The story goes that friends convinced Scago to come back to Pittsfield and face the music. He did so, and served part of a 15-month sentence before being given a governor's pardon from then Gov. Michael S. Dukakis. Pushing hard for Scago were an all-star Berkshire County lineup that included Sherriff John D. Courtney, City Councilor Pete Arlos and District Court Judge John A. Barry.
Massimano called Scago "the leader of the pack."
"I know I'm the sheriff," Massimiano said. "But there were times when Frank was in the room with me that I wasn't so sure who was in charge. He had that kind of presence."
Scago's competitive nature never left him. He used it to battle his illness and he used it in life to defeat some of the odds that were stacked against him.
"Frank would come at you in a game of checkers," Massimiano said. "We'd play racquetball years ago, and I had to play doubles because I didn't have the stamina to play alone. I'd team with Frank and ask him what should I do. He'd tell me ‘just stay out of my way.' "
Massimiano spent his last minutes with Scago in January at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. They talked about the "old days" and Massimiano gave him a copy of a book that was a compilation of former Eagle sports editor Roger O'Gara's columns. There were more than a few Scago entries among the columns picked for the book by O'Gara's sons Jack and Paul.
"I told Frank, ‘read this, you'll feel better thinking about the old days,' " Massimiano said.
He was a young athletic star, a good son and great brother and father. He survived a horrific accident at age 24 when the truck he was driving went off the road and traveled 120 feel into a wooded area before crashing into a tree, flipping completely over, and then traveling another 100 feet before coming to rest in the middle of the road.
He once had to jump out of a second-story window at the family house on Daniels Avenue during a fire to avoid being overcome by toxic fumes.
"Frank's life had many phases," his wife Judy said.
"At times a complicated life," Massimiano added.
Frank Scago Jr. was many things to many people. For some, a true legend. At the least, he caught the imagination of an entire generation. The hard dribble, both feet under his knees when taking his patented long jumper.
For a man who they say lived a simple life, there was so much to digest. Frnak Scago Jr. -- gone, but forgotten? Not a chance.
Brian Sullivan can be reached email@example.com or (413) 496-6221.
"Panel OKs new judge"
By Conor Berry, Berkshire Eagle Staff, August 12, 2010
PITTSFIELD -- Berkshire Second Assistant District Attorney Joan M. McMenemy has received formal approval to serve as a judge in the Juvenile Court.
In a 6-2 vote Wednesday, the Governor's Council appointed McMenemy to fill the vacancy created last year by the retirement of Berkshire Juvenile Court Judge Paul E. Perachi.
McMenemy, a local prosecutor since 1994, said she was "deeply honored" by the council's vote, the results of which were made known around noontime Wednesday.
"I feel truly humbled by the outpouring of support for my nomination, not only from my co-workers and the members of the Berkshire Bar, but by the community as a whole," McMenemy said in a statement to The Eagle.
"We are very lucky here in the Berkshires to have such a great network of dedicated and heroic people devoted to the safety and well-being of children, and I look forward to working in the Berkshire Juvenile Court," she said.
McMenemy also thanked Gov. Deval L. Patrick, who nominated her for the judgeship.
Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless said that he and members of the Berkshire Bar are "very pleased" about McMenemy's appointment, praising her strong skills as an attorney.
"It's going to be a great loss for the [district attorney's] office, but it's a great gain for the citizens of Berkshire County," he said.
"Fellow members of the local bar have supported the governor's nomination and are now, I'm sure, relieved that Joan will soon be sitting on the bench in the Juvenile Court," Capeless said. "They do feel that way because they know that, with Joan sitting on the bench, they will receive the respect they've gotten from her as a prosecutor."
Prominent Pittsfield defense attorney Leonard H. Cohen, who often squares off against prosecutors in Berkshire Superior Court, said he was happy with McMenemy's appointment to the bench.
"What makes good lawyers feel good is when good lawyers become judges and have the potential to be real good judges, and she fills that bill," Cohen said of the soon-to-be-former prosecutor.
It remains unclear when McMenemy will be sworn in as a judge, but Capeless speculated that it could happen soon.
The two members of the Governor's Council who voted against McMenemy -- Mary-Ellen Manning and Marilyn M. Devaney -- both offered strong criticisms of McMenemy after the vote.
Devaney said that in her 12 years as a member of the council, she had "never received such negative information regarding a nominee," including allegations that McMenemy was overzealous as a prosecutor.
Devaney claimed that she and Manning were the only councilors who bothered to review material sent to the Governor's Council by Boston attorney John G. Swomley, who represented a client in a parental kidnapping case prosecuted by McMenemy. That case was later thrown out, and the former defendant, Louis Piccone, is now suing law enforcement officials and the state Department of Children and Families.
DCF was poised to investigate an abuse allegation involving Piccone and one of his three children, but a judge later determined that there was no evidence of abuse by Piccone or his wife, Elena.
Manning claimed that McMenemy "ruthlessly and relentlessly prosecuted an innocent man and his wife for parental kidnapping" despite evidence to the contrary.
The Piccones removed their children from Massachusetts prior to the issuance of a DCF custody order. McMenemy has said that DCF investigators never got a chance to probe the abuse allegation because they never had a chance to interview the children.
To reach Conor Berry: firstname.lastname@example.org; (413) 496-6249.
"Budget boosts pay for sheriffs, district attorneys: Lesser raises for workers on state’s lower rungs"
By Michael Levenson and Frank Phillips, Boston Globe Staff, July 1, 2014
The state’s politically powerful district attorneys, judges, and sheriffs are set to receive sizable pay increases starting this month, but lower-paid assistant prosecutors and child-care workers will receive much smaller raises under the state budget approved by legislators Monday.
The 11 district attorneys will receive a 15 percent annual increase, or nearly $23,000, jumping from $148,843 to $171,561 under the new state budget. They will make $20,000 more than the governor, and $38,000 more than the state’s attorney general.
The state’s 14 sheriffs will get 23 percent pay increases, most of them going from $123,209 to $151,709 under the budget.
Trial court judges will see their salaries rise from $130,000 to $160,000 Tuesday, the beginning of the new fiscal year. The 23 percent increase was approved in a prior budget.
The pay increases made it through the House and Senate without opposition, despite growing concern within the criminal justice community over the low salaries paid to assistant district attorneys. The position’s starting salary is $37,500. The average pay for the prosecutors after several years of experience is generally in the low- to mid-$40,000 range.
Martin W. Healy, chief legal counsel for the Massachusetts Bar Association, said the low pay for assistant district attorneys and public defenders has made it difficult to attract and retain top talent. The bar association recently released a report decrying the low pay in both jobs.
“We’re pretty much at rock bottom in terms of pay scale,” Healy said. “We obviously want to see much more attention paid to this.”
Senate President Therese Murray declined to comment on the pay increases. House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo also declined to comment.
Colleen McGonagle, a spokeswoman for House Ways and Means Committee chairman Brian Dempsey, said the “budget provides funding for cost-of-living raises to public safety officials, who have not received them in a number of years, comparable to those for members of the judiciary and clerks in prior years.”
Governor Deval Patrick, who would have to sign the spending plan before it could become law, said he is still reviewing it.
Assistant district attorneys would receive a small bump under a $500,000 item included in the budget. District attorneys would be given discretion to dole out those increases, but if they were spread equally, the state’s 700 assistant district attorneys each would receive about $715 more a year.
That means assistant district attorneys in Massachusetts would still earn significantly less than counterparts in other states. In New Hampshire, entry-level prosecutors earn $52,000; in New York and Connecticut, they make $60,000.
Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe defended the hefty increase for district attorneys, saying the elected officials last received a pay increase in 2007. Averaged over the past seven years, the increase comes to 2 percent annually, he said.
“We are happy that the Legislature gave us a 2 percent increase since last time,’’ O’Keefe said. “We are grateful.”
He compared the gap in pay between district attorneys and assistant district attorneys to a typical workplace. “There is usually disparity between the leadership and those who start at the bottom,’’ O’Keefe said.
The budget would also raise from $148,843 to $171,561 the salary of Anthony J. Benedetti, chief counsel to the Committee for Public Counsel Services, whose salary is tied to the salaries of district attorneys.
The committee, which spends $167 million to represent indigent defenders, declined to comment. An entry-level salary for the committee’s staff attorney is $40,000.
The average salary for the 500 defense attorneys is in the mid-$50,000 range. The budget does not provide an increase in their pay.
Of the state’s 14 sheriffs, two are paid less than the others. The Nantucket sheriff will see his pay rise from $71,332 to $95,816. The sheriff’s salary in Dukes County will rise from $97,271 to $119,771.
John Birtwell, spokesman for Plymouth Sheriff Joseph McDonald Jr., president of the state sheriffs association, said the increases are based on a requirement that sheriffs’ salaries be 95 percent of the pay for District Court associate justices.
The Legislature gave much smaller, one-time increases to lower-paid human services and early childhood workers.
About 30,000 early childhood educators, who earn $26,000 a year on average, will get a one-time 2 percent bump, equivalent to $520 a year or $10 a week, according to Leo Delaney, president of the Massachusetts Association of Early Education and Care.
“It really does not put a lot of money in their pockets at all, and that’s the sad part,” said Delaney, whose group had asked lawmakers for a 5 percent increase. Still, he said, he was grateful for the bonus.
Lawmakers were able to boost spending in the $36.5 billion budget after they used rosier revenue projections to find an additional $120 million, said Andrew Bagley, director of research and public affairs at the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a private group that tracks state finances.
Bagley said he had no reason to doubt the honesty of the revision.
But he pointed out that the state is facing potentially costly fixes to its troubled Health Connector website and is paying about $10 million a month to keep people in temporary health plans while officials scramble to put them into permanent plans that comply with the federal health care law.
Given these costs, “it would have been better to hold the money in reserve,” Bagley said.
Senate budget chief Stephen M. Brewer defended the revision, saying it was based on the improving economy and a desire to fund favored programs.
Asked if it was responsible, Brewer said, “Without a doubt.”
But the budget also relies on $75 million in casino and slot parlor revenue that could evaporate this fall, if voters approve a ballot question to repeal the state’s gambling law. “That’s yet another exposure that we may face,” Bagley said.
If the money does not materialize, lawmakers might have to make cuts or dip deeper into the state’s reserve account, DeLeo said Monday. The budget already uses $140 million from the rainy day fund.
“Obviously, it’s a concern,” DeLeo said.
To save money, the budget closes a costly Medicaid loophole, preventing detox centers from sending drug samples to testing clinics run by the same owner.
Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office, which pushed the change, said it would save the state’s Medicaid program $6.6 million.
The budget also includes a cost-saving measure that would change the rules so that prisoners’ Medicaid coverage would be suspended instead of terminated after arraignment.
This would allow the state to bill Medicaid if an inmate is hospitalized, and the federal government would reimburse at least half the cost.
And inmates would have their coverage immediately restored upon release, so they would have easier access to health care, especially substance abuse and mental health treatment.
Middlesex County Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian said in a statement that the change “will provide greater continuity of care, promote public safety and, at the same time, save valuable taxpayer dollars.”
The budget also seeks to reduce over-medicating of the elderly, by requiring nursing homes to receive written consent from residents before giving them certain psychotropic drugs.
Backers said some nursing homes use the drugs to calm residents, not because they are medically necessary.
“This is a simple yet necessary step in informing some of our most vulnerable citizens, elderly and Alzheimer’s patients,” said state Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives, a Newburyport Democrat.
Felice J. Freyer and David Scharfenberg of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
"A History of Organized Crime in the Berkshires"
By Joe Durwin, iBerkshires Columnist, March 8, 2015
Implied associations between law-enforcement officials and perceived underworld activity — particularly at the questionable racetrack — continued to trouble area residents, though, and the sense that corruption was still a problem would not soon dissipate. Even in 1976, when Berkshire Downs was all but dismantled, an editorial in The Eagle voiced concerns about this underlying perception.
"There is nothing illegal about Judge John A. Barry's serving as director and spokesman for a third-rate agricultural fair that serves as an excuse for a fourth-rate racing operation in Hancock. The same can be said in defense of Carmen C. Massimiano, the chief probation officer of the Berkshire Superior Court, who is evidently moonlighting at Berkshire Downs, too," wrote the Eagle's editor. "But there is a very serious question as to the good judgement of law-enforcement officials who allow themselves to be identified with any race track - and particularly a track so economically marginal that jockeys have to be saintly to stay honest."
- Jonathan Melle
- Amherst, NH, United States
- I am a citizen defending the people against corrupt Pols who only serve their Corporate Elite masters, not the people! / My 2 political enemies are Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., nicknamed "Luciforo" and former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. / I have also pasted many of my political essays on "The Berkshire Blog": berkshireeagle.blogspot.com / I AM THE ANTI-FRANK GUINTA! / Please contact me at email@example.com
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