New program gives free suits to formerly incarcerated Brooklynites
The Brooklyn district attorney teamed up on Tuesday with a nonprofit organization that provides free suits and clothing to low-income people for job interviews as part of the office’s goal to help smooth the transition back into society for formerly incarcerated Brooklynites.
The organization, 100 Suits for 100 Men, will now have its own room within the DA’s Re-Entry Bureau in Downtown Brooklyn. The room — the Kenneth P. Thompson Boutique — is named after the late former DA who was a mentor to current DA Eric Gonzalez.
“We believe, both organizations, the DA’s office and 100 Suits, believe that in order to increase public safety, we cannot turn our backs on people who have been formerly incarcerated,” said Gonzalez. “We have to support them, we have to let them know that we love them and that they’re part of our community and that we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure that they’re successful.”
Gonzalez said the DA’s Re-Entry Bureau serves about 500 people, mostly men.
“We will uphold the legacy of Kenneth Thompson,” said Kevin Livingston, the founder of 100 Suits for 100 Men. “I started 100 Suits in 2011 with the simple intention of suiting up active gang members in Jamaica, Queens.”
The nonprofit is active in Manhattan and Queens as well, but the Brooklyn location is the first to team up with a district attorney. Livingston stressed that the group also provides business-appropriate attire for women and gender non-conforming individuals.
Alexander Burgess, a Bedford-Stuyvesant resident, was incarcerated for 23 years for burglary. He was the first person in the boutique Tuesday, where collared shirts and ties hung from racks. Livingston helped Burgess pick a shirt and tie a Windsor knot.
“It doesn’t feel bad to be in a suit. I went to a church. I went to a church the way I was, but I would like to go to church in a suit,” said Burgess, who has been part of the DA’s re-entry program.
The group’s board includes Ken Thompson’s widow, Lu-Shawn Thompson, who donated about two dozen of her husband’s suits to 100 Suits for 100 Men shortly after Thompson’s death.
“My husband would be so proud to have his name associated with 100 Suits for 100 Men and would have been an avid supporter of Kevin Livingston and his amazing work,” Thompson said in a statement. “He would have been pleased that Eric Gonzalez and the Brooklyn DA’s office are continuing to keep his legacy alive by continuing to make strides in criminal justice reform.”
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