Bowler Proposes New Program For Children of Incarcerated Offenders
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Tom Bowler, candidate for Berkshire County sheriff, on Wednesday proposed expanding existing programs at the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction in a comprehensive new effort to assist children whose parents are inmates at the jail. The new initiative is aimed at breaking the cycle of incarceration.
The program would feature collaboration with social service and mental health agencies, as well as a strong emphasis on existing youth and recreational agencies. The focus of the expanded programming would be on both the offender and their children.
"The older I get, the more I realize that the greatest gift given to me during my life was the foundation established in a loving home where both parents were actively involved in raising responsible children," Bowler said. "The children of some of the offenders at the jail will never know the value of this kind of family foundation."
According to national statistics, the children of incarcerated parents are at least 2.5 times more likely to be incarcerated themselves. The statistics also reveal that children of incarcerated parents tend to have more arrests and more problems with behavior, relationships, school and substance abuse.
"We need to stop this cycle of crime and to do that, we have to expand existing programming to address at-risk youth," Bowler said.
Statistics from 2009 at the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction indicate that 1,059 individuals were booked at the facility and of that number, 833 of the incarcerated men and women each had an average of two children.
Bowler said there is already a full range of programs at the jail that address the significant issues that led to an individual's incarceration, including drug and alcohol addiction, or a lack of education or vocational training.
"But all too often, these offenders are also parents of little kids, and it is their children who are the most vulnerable victims of their crimes," he continued. "I want to expand on existing programming to include courses on how to be better parents. I want offenders to see a much bigger picture — that their obligation to the community must expand beyond improving themselves and also include providing a better life for their children."
The second emphasis of the expanded programming would be on the children of offenders by collaborating with social service, mental health and local recreational agencies to help fill the gaps in their lives while a parent is incarcerated.
"All kids need to be involved in good activities that help them gain confidence and find positive role models. When a parent is in jail, kids desperately need the involvement of other adults in their lives," Bowler said. "There are so many youth and recreational agencies in our community that can have a lasting impact on a child's life if we make a better effort to connect the kids of incarcerated offenders with the leaders of these agencies."
Bowler and his wife, Dayle, are the parents of four children.
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MacDonald: I'll Fight For Education Funding
ADAMS, Mass. — Ed MacDonald, candidate for state representative for the 1st Berkshire District, sees education as one of the most important issues that we will have to address in the future.
"In today's world, we are so completely consumed by the word 'integration,' especially when dealing with the ever-increasing amount of technology in our daily lives. Whether it is cell phones entering all of our pockets, with laptops becoming more commonplace, and wireless Internet providing connectivity for our machines, we are truly becoming more integrated with technology," said MacDonald. "However, this dehumanization of the process by using such an unfeeling word as 'integration' is the first major hurdle we as a people have to acknowledge. Thus, instead of focusing on integration, our focus should be on the process of interweaving science and technology into our daily lives.
"This interweaving process needs to form a continuous fabric that we can further expand upon. Thus, something needs to change in our educational system as the times are changing. Our district and even more importantly, our nation needs to be a leader in this interweaving of technology in order to establish and maintain a true advantage with the rest of the world. As such, a progressive plan has to be established on how to make our district one of the leading powerhouses of the state, the nation, and eventually the world."
The candidate said the Berkshires' prime location allows us to capitalize on talent from all of the very best colleges ranging from one of our closest, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, to a bit further but definitive leader in science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. So far, he said, we have not truly been capitalizing on some of the best and brightest minds of our age. Something needs to change and with change comes great opportunity.
"Our children's educations and their very future will depend on the decisions we make with science and technology," MacDonald continued. "Just as promotion of an interweaving of science and technology is one of the first steps, we have to start from the ground and work our way up.
"The entire puzzle is only complete when we acknowledge that we have a range of students that pass through our education system. With the proper care and attention, we can lead the charge for many generations to come with unparalleled education for our children.
"As your next state representative, I will fight for every dollar that goes into the school system. I will look at changing funding for charter schools versus public schools. Currently, there is no equity in funding public education. Education will be one of my priorities in the State House. We need to remain competitive with the rest of the world and the way to do that is to provide quality education for all."
Decreased School Aid Unacceptable to Bissaillon
ADAMS, Mass. — While recognizing the difficult financial times the state is working through, 1st Berkshire District state representative candidate Dave Bissaillon said it is not acceptable to him that cities and towns were forced to deal with a 4 percent decrease in Chapter 70 aid for district schools.
Bissaillon also said he would not support a budget that decreases aid to schools until the formula used to determine aid amounts is reevaluated.
"Ensuring that every child in Massachusetts is entitled to a challenging and invigorating public education should not have to be a rallying point for political action," Bissaillon said. "Through funding and various requirements it sets, the state has taken on a role in the education of our
children, and needs to live up to that responsibility."
Bissaillon pointed out that in the First Berkshire District, where employment opportunities are fewer, it is even more critical that all children obtain an education that fully prepares them for career options, today and for the future, in which change is constant.
"Shortchanging education, even in difficult times, cannot be an option in a state that has always prided itself on providing the best public education for its residents," he said. "I will not support a state budget that does not provide the necessary education dollars for our region."
Insufficient funding forces communities to lay off teachers and cut programs, or increase taxes and decrease municipal services. This should not be the choice that voters, school districts and municipalities face, Bissaillon said. The state has imposed a number of new requirements on schools in recent years and is obligated to provide schools the resources to meet and exceed those obligations.
Even without the 4 percent across-the-board cut, school funding is problematic. The formula used to calculate Chapter 70 aid from the state has not been adequately adjusted to reflect the actual costs of education today, Bissaillon said. Chapter 70 is the law intended to assure fair and adequate minimum per student funding for public schools. With the exception of inflation adjustments, the factors used to determine what the state calls the foundation budget have remained stagnant since 1993.
"As your state representative, I would support a formal re-evaluation of the foundation budget levels," Bissaillon pledged. "Until that review is completed, I will never support a budget that decreases aid to any of our public schools. It is time for elected officials to start making tough decisions so that our local communities don't have to. Our children deserve that, at the very least."
For more information about Bissaillon, visit www.bissaillon.com, call 413-672-2460 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cariddi Calls for Boost to Creative Economy
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — During the last decade, the creative economy has become a critical sector of Northern Berkshire County and western Franklin County. Today, the creative sector accounts for more than 6,000 jobs in the region and has proved to be a major driver in the revitalization of older cities and towns.
The reinvigoration of cities such as North Adams has facilitated new neighborhood investments and generated new employment opportunities. In 1993, 20 percent of North Adams' downtown storefronts were occupied while today nearly 80 percent are being utilized.
As Berkshire County continues to lose population, a significant challenge is to lure young artists, entrepreneurs and "hidden tech" startup enterprises to the area. Gail Cariddi, candidate for the 1st Berkshire District in the Sept. 14 primary, said Massachusetts is falling behind other states such as Rhode Island in offering housing and other relocation incentives to those in this sector of the work force who seek affordable and supportive places in which to live and work. She points out that the 1st Berkshire District contains many former mills and vacant or underutilized buildings which can be converted for artistic, cultural and entrepreneurial purposes.
"To help foster the continued growth of the creative economy, I pledge to seek appointment to the Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development," said Cariddi. "I also support the creation of a venture capital fund to assist developers with financing for the purchase and rehabilitation of buildings for studio, retail and housing space for the creative and entrepreneurial community."
Cariddi elaborates on her plans for the growth of the region on her website, www.electgailcariddi.com.
MacDonald Supports Accelerated Learning Programs
ADAMS, Mass. — Ed MacDonald, candidate for state representative in the 1st Berkshire District, has expressed his support for accelerated learning programs.
"In an ever increasingly competitive society, it is imperative that we continually progress and innovate. An effective way of doing this is to offer the very best education for our sons and daughters. This serves as the foundation for a proposed accelerated learning program similar to the one found in Worcester, known as the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science (Mass Academy)," MacDonald said in a statement.
Students may attend Mass Academy's program during their junior year of high school, after taking a a rigorous entry examination. The school focuses on teaching advanced science and mathematics, including physics and calculus. Upon successful completion of their junior year, students may then take courses at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
"This provides these students a distinctive advantage in the marketplace as many will go on to the top technological schools in the country," stated MacDonald.
MacDonald proposes that a program similar for local students could be created by partnering with Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, using the new science and technology center it plans to build.
"We could together engineer a program that is very similar to the Mass Academy ideology. McCann Technical High School has already started an engineering program to enable students to have a head start in college and has been successful on many occasions with its students. Both McCann and Mass Academy’s programs not only set precedence for success but give our students a much desired commodity, opportunity," he stated.
"To have the opportunity to take college classes as a high school student when one is intellectually ready enables them to be competitive and to help dominate the market. We need to expand our push for higher education and MCLA’s continual progress for excellence provide an excellent blend of opportunity that can help our students be some of the best contributions to society as a whole."
"As such, I propose that when I am elected as your state representative, that we push for a program similar to Mass Academy that stands as an excellent extension to what McCann is already trying to implement. Our students deserve the best, isn’t it about time that we followed through?"