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August 22, 2011

CONTACT: Peter Van Delft
(617) 704-6682


Guest speaker and past Common Ground Institute graduate Jamal Wornum was one of several attendees visiting the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department House of Correction to participate in the 46th graduation held for the program.

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department recently held a special graduation for the House of Correction inmates enrolled in the Department’s vocational educational program, the Common Ground Institute.

Created in 2005 by Sheriff Andrea J. Cabral, the Common Ground Institute (CGI) is a 10–week instructional program that is designed to enhance and fortify employment skills that aid the prison population of Suffolk County in making a successful transition back into society post–incarceration. With the CGI program, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department has taken a proactive approach to reducing recidivism, in part, by placing an emphasis on vocational education, which includes the teaching of skills in carpentry, custodial maintenance, painting and landscaping, among others.

During the ceremony, much as all of CGI’s past 483 graduates have done, participants approached the podium one–by–one after being called to collect their certificates of completion along with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) card, which they also earned through the program. Members of the Sheriff’s executive team and various Department staff were also in attendance, adding to the air of familiarity, but the key element separating this graduation from all previous ones was the presence of family and friends of the graduates, who were permitted access to the ceremony for the first time since the inception of the program.

“This is the 46th time we’re holding graduation for the Common Ground Institute and it’s the first time that visitors are able to come in to be a part of it,” said John D’Amore, Director of Vocational Education for the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department. “We wanted people to come in and witness their loved ones accomplishing something that’s very positive. It is important for them because it can be encouraging to see what can be achieved by these men and we wanted the men in the program to also be encouraged by the support that they’re getting today.”

Adding to that support was special guest speaker Jamal Wornum, a former SCSD inmate and CGI graduate who was featured in a Department video about achieving success post–incarceration. In his time following the end of his sentence, Wornum gained employment from a local automotive service company and steadily grew into a management position before establishing a musical production company of his own.

His message to the day’s graduates was a simple one, born from the wisdom of his own experiences as one who has traveled the journey that they are about to undertake.

“This is a good program,” said Wornum. “The fact that you’re graduating from it is a big accomplishment. Now, when you come out into the world, you have to go two–times as hard as you did in here. It’s hard, but don’t give up. Stay focused. You have to remember that nothing else really matters except staying focused and achieving your goals. Congratulations on your first step.”

Despite carrying a great sadness into the event after facing a death in his family only days earlier, Wornum provided a sterling example of his own focus and commitment.

“I had to honor my commitment,” Wornum explained. “I had to come back, I gave my word. I felt like it was important for me to be here and try to give back some of what I got from the program.”

Amid the powerful applause from graduates, future participants, staff and attendees it appeared that the message was received and taken to heart.

“I want to express my sincere thanks to the coordinators of education and vocational programming,” said one graduate who addressed the crowd. “You’ve given us the opportunity to learn something new and handed us the tools that can lead toward a purposeful, rewarding and richer life. Before today, the only thing my mother ever saw me complete was a prison sentence. To my fellow graduates, no matter where you are, you can make a personal vow to change. It’s never too late for a change.”

To learn more about the Common Ground Institute or about the vast array of programs that the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department makes available to inmates and detainees, visit:

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