FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Peter Van Delft
SUFFOLK COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT WELCOMES PUBLIC DEFENDERS FOR HOUSE OF CORRECTION TOUR
The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department recently welcomed a group of legal professionals for a tour of the Suffolk County House of Correction.
Composed of members of the Boston District Court and Roxbury/Dorchester District Court Offices of the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS), the tour was organized by Kari Tannenbaum and Lisa Ann Grant, Co–Directors of the program, with the goal of familiarizing the group with the inner–workings of the House of Correction (HOC).
The Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services, a 15–member body appointed by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, oversees the provision of legal representation to indigent persons in criminal and civil court cases and administrative proceedings in which there is a right to counsel. Most representation is provided by approximately 3,000 private attorneys trained and certified to accept appointments. Support for and supervision of these attorneys is provided by the Private Counsel Division (for criminal, juvenile delinquency and related matters), the Children and Family Law Division (CAFL) and the Mental Health Litigation Unit. The Public Defender Division has approximately 200 staff attorneys working in offices located across Massachusetts. Staff defenders provide representation to clients in Superior, District and Juvenile Court criminal and delinquency proceedings. An additional 28 staff attorneys working in CAFL offices throughout the state represent clients in state intervention/child welfare cases.
The group was led through the facility by HOC Superintendent and Special Sheriff Gerard Horgan who brought CPCS members to several key locations including operations, booking, the property room, recreation yard, the Common Ground Institute (the vocational education department), medical, the chapel, and housing units.
At the conclusion of the tour, the group convened in the main visiting area where they were addressed by an HOC inmate who spoke about some of the hard lessons learned from repeated incarcerations, and the new hope that he has acquired through mature self-reflection and participation in several of the Department’s many available programs.
“I’m 28 years old,” the inmate revealed to the tour group. “I’ve been back and forth behind the walls for almost half of my life. My father was an alcoholic and I suffered as a kid with physical and mental abuse. Looking back, I wish that my dad could have been better for me and I don’t want to follow in his footsteps. I don’t want my kids to be in the same situation as I was.”
“While I’ve been here, I’ve gotten my GED, I’ve taken Alcoholics Anonymous classes, anger management classes, and some others,” he continued. “I am trying to be there for my kids now and I have plans to open a business when I get out of here because a lot of places out there won’t hire you when you’ve been in here. I try to tell the younger kids coming in here to do the right thing, take some classes to better yourself and try to learn while you’re here so that you’re ready when you leave.”
According to the co–directors of the CPCS, the opportunity to bring public defenders to tour the House of Correction is an important tool because it allows them to learn about both the environment within which some of their clients will be living during their sentence and also about the broad scope of programming that their clients can access while incarcerated.
“The people that we serve are indigent and can’t afford counsel, so they are assigned public defenders to handle their cases,” said Kari Tannenbaum. “Usually, though, when we visit the House of Correction it’s limited to just the attorney/client visiting area. Being able to tour the entire facility helps to give us a better sense of what life is like inside for our clients and what kind of rehabilitative programming is available, and I think that’s an important consideration for our group to be able to have when it comes to making recommendations to the court.”
“It’s good for some of the newer public defenders who have never been inside of this or other prisons to see that it’s not like what you see on television,” added Lisa Ann Grant. “The CGI program is impressive because it gives inmates the opportunity to acquire actual skills that they can utilize to help them to transition back into society successfully.”
For more information about the Committee for Public Counsel Services, visit: http://www.publiccounsel.net.