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January 14, 2011

CONTACT: Peter Van Delft
(617) 704-6682


Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department Major Marie Lockhart (middle) and Officers Robin Garside (left), Brenda Garcia (right), and Anne McAuliffe (not shown) helped to establish the Department’s first father/child visiting room at the House of Correction.

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department recently completed the transformation of an inmate visiting room from a drab, institutional space into a child–friendly environment suitable for visits by the young children of male inmates sentenced to the Suffolk County House of Correction.

Seeking to create a visiting space similar to the one provided for female inmates and detainees and their children, the Department’s Major Marie Lockhart spearheaded a collaborative effort that included Officers Brenda Garcia, Anne McAuliffe, and Robin Garside along with Dottie Gertsch of the Massachusetts Parole Board.

Complete with child–sized furniture, soft–foam puzzles and games, toys, coloring pages and crayons, and a collection of children’s books, the room’s metamorphosis was achieved at no cost to taxpayers through a combination of donations and volunteer effort on the part of Department staff and supporters. Even the fresh coat of paint, artwork, and colorful dinosaur and alphabet borders that run along each of the walls in the room were applied by Department staff who volunteered their time and talents to ensure the completion of the redesign.

"I would like to commend Marie Lockhart who organized this effort to create a child–friendly visiting area,” said House of Correction Superintendent and Special Sheriff Gerard Horgan. “Major Lockhart, Brenda Garcia and Dottie Gertsch from Parole each donated items for the children. Anne McAuliffe painted the room and Robin Garside assembled the furniture. The House of Correction is not an ideal place for young children and the efforts of these dedicated professionals will help ensure that they can see their parents in a family friendly environment."

Reiterating the philosophy held by Sheriff Andrea Cabral and the corrections professionals within the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, Superintendent Horgan explained that children with incarcerated parents are, though no personal fault, thrust into the unfortunate situation of having to deal with the realities of visiting a parent in a prison environment. It is the goal of Sheriff Cabral and the Department, said Superintendent Horgan, to reduce as much of the psychological burden on the children as possible and foster the continuation of the relationship between parent and child.

Offering additional praise for the Department of Probation and Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department officers who donated their time and resources to the room, Major Lockhart spoke of the motivation behind the project.

“There were a number of officers who helped to make this room special,” said Major Lockhart. “They donated time and items for the room and saved the Department money while creating a solution to a problem.”

“Previously, because of the acknowledged need to maintain that precious bond that mothers share with their children – especially while incarcerated – the Department established a visiting room specifically for mothers to visit with their children. Now, the Department has created a room for fathers to visit with their children, because they, too, need to maintain those important bonds.”

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