Nearly five months since he was released from prison, former state Rep. Carlos Henriquez says he is still driven by service.
In an hour-long interview with the Reporter, the 37-year-old Dorchester Democrat remained composed, conceding that every new day is a challenge and that he struggles with depression.
He has slowed down since his release, he said. While he initially told the media that he was determined to break back into his old life and maybe run for office again, he has since stepped back to focus on his “new normal” – taking things day by day.
“It would be a lot easier to deal with it if it was something that I did, if it was something I could own responsibility of it, it wouldn’t be a problem,” Henriquez said. “To be falsely accused and convicted of it, I just don’t know how to find peace with that yet.”
Still a resident of Uphams Corner, his lifelong home, Henriquez has stopped reading the newspaper every day at the suggestion of his therapist. He is focusing on his mental, physical, and emotional health, spending more time with family and friends, biking and playing basketball, and reading the Bible, as well as a book about forgiveness given to him by a friend.
In January, a jury in Cambridge convicted Henriquez of two counts of assault and battery on a woman he was dating and he was sentenced to serve six months of a 2½ year sentence. The two-term state representative was acquitted on an additional count of assault and battery, as well as witness intimidation and larceny. In February, for the first time in nearly a century, the House voted to expel one of its members. Henriquez was released early from the House of Correction on April 30.
Henriquez says he has been able to identify the triggers that set off his depression from his experience over two terms serving the 5th Suffolk district on the judiciary committee. “Because of my time in those hearings, I was able to identify this stuff as it was happening to me,” he said. “As I’m going to work, I see a campaign sign, and it’s a trigger because I think, ‘That’s where my sign would be.’ ”
On top of weekly visits to a therapist, Henriquez attends his court-ordered batterer’s classes and makes his required probation appearances. To pay for probation along with the rest of the bills that piled up while he was away for three months, Henriquez has started working a job as a deliveryman.
On returning home, Henriquez said that for the first time in his life he considered leaving Boston and moving elsewhere. Now, he is focusing on his personal life, he said, he is looking to get married and start a family in the next five years. His ability to buy a home in his neighborhood he has lived all his life has taken on new significance for him, adding to his concerns about gentrification in the neighborhood, which is driving up property values and making it unaffordable for current residents, including himself, to buy a home.
“This is my home,” he said. “Everything I know I learned it here.” Henriquez attributes this to his father, who died a few months before the arrest in 2012 that kicked off his trial, conviction, expulsion, and jail time.
“My father never quit on anything and never ran from anything,” Henriquez said. “It’s why I didn’t step down when I was accused, it’s why I didn’t step down when I was wrongfully convicted. I don’t quit.”
Henriquez has not stopped helping people, either. Even when in prison, Henriquez said he picked up the nickname “The Senator” because he was always helping out, asking the mental health workers there about how they manage the stress involved with their case loads, working with inmates to figure out living situations after prison, and even helping coach fellow inmates through mock job interviews.
Now that he is home, Henriquez has not warmed to the idea of returning to politics, but said he hopes to keep up with what’s going on in his community. He points to progress made with Pearl Meat Factory, a newly opened food production facility on Quincy Street that he championed alongside state Senators Linda Dorcena Forry and Sonia Chang-Diaz.
“It’s tough to watch from a different perspective but I’m happy to see the change,” he said. “It’s more about having the change get done than who does it.”
Henriquez followed the recent tumult at the Dearborn and Madison Park schools, and attended community meetings trying to help where he could. He hopes to expand the ambassador volunteer program in place at City Hall and the State House to the four Main Street districts in the 5th Suffolk, putting a volunteer in a central location to direct visitors to local shops, restaurants, and keep things tidy.
He still finds support in his home neighborhood, he says, noting that young people in the neighborhood who are interested in breaking into politics have turned to him for advice and older women recognize him on the street, say they believe in him and hope he runs for office again. “Those really are the pick-me-ups that keep me going.”
While trying not to pay too much attention politics, Henriquez has kept an eye on the race for his old seat, which Rep. Evandro Carvalho won in an April special election. He says he doesn’t know Carvalho, who is running against Republican Claudette Joseph in his reelection bid, nor has Carvalho reached out to him since his release.
For the record, Henriquez says, he wrote in his own name for the 5th Suffolk seat on primary day. “I still believe I am the best candidate for the job.”