Legis. Bridget Fleming (D-Sag Harbor), center, was joined Wednesday by Suffolk...

Legis. Bridget Fleming (D-Sag Harbor), center, was joined Wednesday by Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon, second from left, and representatives from nonprofits and advocacy groups to announce a clothing drive to benefit inmates leaving the county's prison system.  Credit: Newsday/photo

A new clothing drive is seeking donations to provide inmates leaving the Suffolk County prison system with dress attire so they can pursue career and educational goals.

Suffolk law enforcement and local nonprofit officials gathered Wednesday at Legis. Bridget Fleming’s (D-Sag Harbor) office on the East End to help announce the launch of the clothing drive, spearheaded by Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon’s office through its Sheriff’s Transition and Re-entry Team, or START, Program. The program, which began in February 2020, is partnering with the Brentwood-based New Hour for Women and Children-LI and the Riverhead-based Sound Justice Initiative for the clothing drive.

Accepted donations include new or cleaned professional attire such as slacks, shirts, leggings, sweaters, sports jackets, pants, shoes, dresses and handbags. Personal hygiene products and office supplies are also needed.

Toulon said providing clothing and assistance for ex-inmates will not only cut crime rates but also help them find jobs, breaking the cycle of recidivism and serving as a local economic tool.

"Many of these individuals aren’t job-prepared," Toulon said. "So between the resume building, the job searches and having the attire, it gives you a little more confidence."

Serena Liguori, New Hour’s executive director, said many times women are arrested with little to no clothing or support, and the nonprofit regularly gives away 80 re-entry bags monthly containing essentials such as toiletries and clothing for when they return home from jail.

"This effort will greatly ensure sustainability, support and also make sure our communities are safe as we continue to work hard to do that," Liguori said.

Fleming, a former Manhattan assistant district attorney, said such programs are key to enhancing public safety, especially by supporting women previously involved in sex trafficking.

"If they don’t have programs like this to lean on…they are sometimes forced to turn back to those who exploited them, so this is a way of interrupting the cycle of criminal conduct and supporting the economy," Fleming said. "When you’re dressed for success, you can more likely get a good local job, support the local economy and become a valuable member of the community."

Donation boxes will be placed in Fleming’s office at 75 Washington Ave. in Sag Harbor for collection through Dec. 31; donations will be delivered to the START Program. Those interested in donating can also contact the sheriff’s office at www.suffolkcountysheriffsoffice.com.

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