Less than a day out of jail, one of the first things former state representative Carlos Henriquez did at his Dorchester home was to watch a historic video clip, the one of his fellow legislators expelling him from the chamber earlier this year.
The experience, Henriquez said in his first interview since he was released on parole Wednesday, was “a little surreal.”
So is much of life for the former lawmaker as he makes the transition from a jail cell back to the community he represented on Beacon Hill for more than three years. He was convicted of two misdemeanor assault charges in January and expelled by his colleagues in February,
Speaking by telephone from his home Thursday, he maintained his innocence and said he was considering another run for public office. He explained that the experience of being incarcerated had reaffirmed, in the most profound way, his belief that the state is not doing enough to reduce the number of people who end up in jail and to rehabilitate those who do.
“It’s only been a glimpse — and I don’t want a longer glimpse — of what incarcerated” people experience, he said.
“You realize that the correctional system is not correcting,” he said.
The Democrat insisted he harbored no animus toward the elected officials, including Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston, who called on him to resign after he was convicted.
He did not heed those calls and became the first Massachusetts state representative in almost 100 years to be expelled from the chamber.
Henriquez, 37, said he had “entertained the idea of running” for his old seat, which includes parts of Dorchester and Roxbury, but “as of [Thursday], I am not.”
To begin the process of qualifying for this year’s ballot, he would have had to submit 150 signatures from registered voters to the Boston Election Department by 5 p.m. Tuesday. He was not released from the Middlesex jail in Billerica, where he served his time, until the next day.
But Henriquez did not rule out a write-in campaign this year, or another bid in the future.
“Being home less than 24 hours, I have to at least be open” to running, he said, adding he had received encouragement from friends and neighbors to try to return to the State House. But, he said, he still considers himself a young man and believes he has time to consider his next step.
“Public office is not the only way to serve your community,” he said.
Evandro Carvalho, 32 and a Democrat, will succeed Henriquez in the seat representing parts of Dorchester and Roxbury. Carvalho won an uncontested special election Tuesday, after coming out on top in a competitive Democratic primary contest earlier in April. Henriquez said he had not spoken to Carvalho since getting out of jail.
Henriquez was convicted Jan. 15 of holding down a female acquaintance and punching her in the chest when she refused to have sex with him. A jury found him guilty of two misdemeanor counts of assault and battery, while acquitting him of other charges. A Cambridge District Court judge sentenced him to 2½ years in the House of Correction and ordered him to serve six months of the sentence.
The jury, Henriquez said, got it wrong in convicting him.
“The thing about the truth is: It doesn’t change,” he said. Henriquez added he was working “toward an appeal” of his conviction, now that he has access to more resources than he did in jail, including being able to use a telephone for extended periods of time.
In the half-hour interview, Henriquez repeatedly returned to how the experience of being in jail — living with another man in “a 7-foot-by-13-foot cell that includes your toilet and your sink and a desk” — had deepened his sense that the state needs to focus more on better rehabilitating those who are incarcerated and making sure fewer people are.
Jail, he said, is at odds with the idea of rehabilitation.
“If you think about spending 20 hours a day in a room maybe a little bigger than your bathroom, with little sunlight . . . it kind of runs contrary to everything a professional would tell you is needed to have a healthy mind and body,” he said.
Henriquez added he was struck by how much the state spends on keeping people behind bars, but how little it spends on working to make sure people do not end up incarcerated.
“We keep treating the symptoms, but we’re not really treating the root causes,” he said, citing poverty and schools that do not prepare students for careers that can allow them to support themselves and avoid poverty.