Legislator Bridget Fleming brought the community together once again on August 30th to launch the START Dignity Drive at her District Office. The START Program (Sheriff’s Transition and Re-entry Team) aids individuals during incarceration and post-incarceration with societal re-entry. According to the National Institute of Justice, 75% of released inmates are re-incarcerated. New York State spends over $69,000 per year per incarcerated individual. But prisoners who participate in work-release programs are 17% less likely to return to prison than those who don’t. Reducing the recidivism rate for former prisoners makes our communities safer, while lowering the tax burden for law enforcement services.
This year’s drive aims to provide the START program with personal hygiene products such as soap, shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, lotion, feminine hygiene products, and new socks. To aid in the educational aspect of re-entry, we will also be collecting flash drives, notebooks, and various computer accessories. Both New Hour and Sound Justice Initiative are non-profit organizations that work with the START program to provide individuals in incarceration and post-incarceration with direct services to help improve their success in reentering communities.
Legislator Fleming was joined by Sheriff Errol Toulon, Southampton Village Mayor Jesse Warren, Kerry Spooner (founder and President of Sound-Justice Initiative), and Serena Liguori (Executive Director of New Hour LI). The event touched upon Sheriff Toulon’s efforts to enhance equitability in the criminal justice system in Suffolk County, to reduce recidivism and encourage community engagement in the process. The START Resource Center relies on community organizations to help those incarcerated with re-entry, both educationally and materially.
Legislator Fleming thanked the participants and noted “this year, we’re again aiming to positively impact the lives of justice-involved individuals and equip the START program with personal care items and educational materials to help individuals find good paying jobs and reclaim the American Dream, reducing recidivism and saving taxpayer dollars.” She added “we already have heard from Southampton Inn on their commitment to donate toiletries and other personal care products that will greatly add to our efforts. We hope this will be the start of other businesses and members of the community joining in this collective effort!”
Sheriff Errol Toulon mentioned, “The START Resource Center has become a nationwide model for reentry and rehabilitation and its success is due to the countless organizations and partners who help to support our mission. I would like to thank Legislator Fleming, New Hour and the Sound Justice Initiative for organizing the Dignity Drive that will help participants in the START program reenter society with critical personal hygiene supplies and other essentials.”
Mayor Jesse Warren stated “Southampton Village is proud to be partnering with Sheriff Errol Toulon, Legislator Bridget Fleming, New Hour for Women, and Sound Justice Initiative on the START Dignity Drive. By providing resources to those reentering the community, we not only improve the quality of life for those individuals, but we can also greatly reduce the number who reoffend. I encourage residents and businesses to participate in this drive by dropping off personal hygiene products to Southampton Village Hall. Your donation can change someone’s life and better our village.”
“New Hour is deeply grateful for the continued collaboration across Suffolk County with Sheriff Errol Toulon and Legislator Fleming, as well as Southampton Village Mayor Jesse Warren. Together, we are a model for the state, creating hope and healing for incarcerated women and men who will benefit from the resources we continue to offer, and the direct support we give through Project Dignity. People who are stabilized are better able to be safe and productive community members,” said Serena Martin-Liguori, Executive Director of New Hour.
“There’s no question that the START Dignity Drive is urgently needed. In addition to addressing practical needs, the Dignity Drive recognizes the profound differences between the experiences of men and women that lead to court involvement in the first place and the formidable challenges women face post-release. Legislator Fleming, Sheriff Toulon, the START Resource Center, New Hour for Women and Children, Mayor Warren and Sound Justice Initiative recognize the need for specialized, gender-responsive actions. And this drive is a testament,” commented Kerry Spooner, President of Sound-Justice Initiative.
Donation boxes will be placed inside of Legislator Bridget Fleming’s District Office, located at 71 Hill Street Southampton NY, Suite F-1, and also at Southampton Village Hall, located at 23 Main Street, Southampton NY, for collection from August 30th to September 30th, 2022, and will be delivered to the Sheriff’s START Program after September 30th.
Featured (from L-R): Suffolk County Sheriff’s Correction Officers Ashley West and Dominick Verni, Caroline Hansen of New Hour, Founding Donors of the New Hour Program George and Patty Kraus, Serena Liguori of New Hour, Skyler Johnson of New Hour, Danielle Donaphin of New Hour, Legislator Bridget Fleming, Sheriff Errol Toulon, Lt. Ricardo Flores, Kerry Spooner of Sound Justice Initiative, and Southampton Village Mayor Jesse Warren