Day of Empathy: Mandatory sentences need reform, ex-cons and officials say

By Wesley Sykes wsykes@s-t.com

BOSTON — One by one, rehabilitated ex-convicts took the podium at Nurses Hall in the Statehouse to share their stories of an uphill road to reintegration in society.

Jumaane Kendrick was in and out of prison, saw 17 friends die due to gang violence and has multiple scars from gunshot and stabbing wounds. He said the battle to reintegrate into society at times seemed insurmountable. But standing in the Statehouse Wednesday speaking at the National Day of Empathy, stood a rehabilitated man.

"I am now a father. I am now property owner. I own my own business and now I work with the youth of Boston affected by the justice system to improve their life chances," Kendrick, program director of ABCD Changing Tracks, said.

The National Day of Empathy, held in conjunction with MassInc. and #Cut50, was designed to generate empathy on a massive scale for millions of Americans impacted by the criminal justice system. #Cut50 is a national bipartisan initiative to reduce the country's incarcerated population by 50 percent over the next 10 years.

Those gathered at the Statehouse highlighted the needs and shared the perspective of Americans impacted by the current justice system — with speakers ranging from incarcerated individuals working to transform themselves to people with criminal records desperately seeking a second chance.

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