FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Peter Van Delft
SHERIFF TOMPKINS HAILS NEW PARTNERSHIP WITH DEVELOPMENT COMPANIES OFFERING OPPORTUNITIES FOR EX–OFFENDERS
The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department has partnered with two construction and development companies to begin offering employment opportunities for inmates during prerelease and continuing beyond the completion of their sentences at the Suffolk County House of Correction.
Suffolk County Sheriff Steven W. Tompkins recently traveled to Watertown, MA to meet with representatives from Raycon Construction, LLC and Mill Creek Residential Trust LLC to discuss this newly–established collaboration, which has resulted in the employment of eight ex–offenders in the construction trades.
The collaboration is an outgrowth of two key initiatives that Sheriff Tompkins spearheaded while serving as the Department’s Chief of External Affairs prior to his appointment as Sheriff – the Common Ground Institute and the inception of the Workforce Development Program Manager position.
The Common Ground Institute (CGI) is a 10–week instructional program 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 takes 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. Graduating members of CGI also receive an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certification card, which they earn through the program.
In an effort to increase the likelihood of employment for these returning citizens, Sheriff Tompkins also developed the concept of a dedicated employment specialist whose main objective is to create employer partnerships to provide collaborative employment opportunities for recently released individuals. The Workforce Development Program Manager also seeks out trainings and develops and implements programming geared towards increasing the skills of those seeking employment, thus increasing the probability that they will continue to stay out of the system.
“This is a great opportunity,” said Jason Carr, one of the aforementioned eight. “I used to hustle because I needed to support my family and opportunities were limited at that time. But, I’m not trying to excuse what I did. You have to make better choices and I’m really grateful that I have this chance to work at a good job and take care of my family.”
Fellow participant Marcus Peterson agreed.
“I have kids to provide for,” said Mr. Peterson. “This job is really helpful and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I took three years of welding in high school and wanted to get into construction, but I ended up selling drugs. I want to stay in construction – I’m at home here and I can make an honest living.”
From the perspective of the company representatives collaborating with the Department, the partnership is off to a strong start.
“I am excited about our involvement in this effort with the Sheriff’s Department,” said Sam Haddad, Principal for Raycon Construction. “We have a need for workers with the kinds of skills that they have, and they have a need for the kinds of work that we have available. It’s really a good fit.”
“We’ve been happy with [the collaboration] and the people we’ve worked with,” said Mark Powers, Assistant Superintendent for Mill Creek Residential Trust/Northeast Construction, LLC.
“This isn’t charity, though. We have work to do and these men are getting it done. But, we’re glad to be able to provide the opportunity to start over in a positive way.”
Perhaps no one, however, is more ecstatic about the partnership than the Sheriff himself.
“As I often say, we in corrections are in the second–chance business,” said Sheriff Tompkins. “Many of the people incarcerated are there because, for whatever reason, they’ve made some unfortunate choices in their lives. I want to be able to give those that want the chance to start over and make amends the best opportunity to do so.”
“We are committed to changing lives and transforming communities through collaborative employment partnerships like this one with Raycon and Mill Creek,” Sheriff Tompkins continued. “Through our vocational education program, the Common Ground Institute, we can provide the tools that can help to make these men and women successful. And, if they’re able to make a living and never come back to see us, then we are all successful.”