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October 7, 2013

CONTACT: Peter Van Delft
(617) 704-6682


Yolanda Smith, Superintendent of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department’s House of Correction, joined panelists for the Union United Methodist Men’s “Community Forum on Mass Incarceration: Barriers To Re–Entry. Supt. Smith (second from right, front row), with (l-r) Stan Smith, Fran Smith, Reverend George Walters–Sleyon, T. Brooks Shepard, Pastor Jay Williams and State Representative Byron Rushing.

Yolanda Smith, Superintendent of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department House of Correction, recently took part on a panel convened for the Union United Methodist Men’s (UUMM) “Community Forum on Mass Incarceration: Barriers to Reentry.”

The forum was hosted by the UUMM, the “primary oversight for the coordination and resourcing of men’s ministry within the United Methodist Church,” which, according to their charter “is the oldest church that worships in the African American tradition of celebration in the New England Conference. It is the fifth oldest continuing congregation in the connection that has a predominance of Black worshippers.”

Sharing the panel with State Representative Byron Rushing; Fred Smith, Director of Program Development, Research and Evaluation for St. Francis House, Inc. – one of New England’s largest day shelters; and Reverend George Walters–Sleyon, the author of “Locked Up and Locked Down: Multitude Lingers in Limbo;” Superintendent Smith gave audience members a general overview of the process through which inmates and detainees at the House of Correction progress from intake to reentry, and spoke about the many programs that exist to provide increased opportunity for success upon release.

“Right now we have 80 programs for the men and women in our custody,” said Superintendent Smith. “We are very programmatic and our reentry process starts from the moment that an individual comes through Booking. We assess each person to determine who has mental health related issues, who needs education and at what level, who has anger issues – and then we classify them and provide programming based on their needs. We learned long ago that there is no cookie cutter, one–size –fits–all approach for those in our custody.”

Supt. Smith also spoke about the gender–specific programming made available to female inmates as well as some of the classes designed to provide the best chance at successful reentry for returning citizens, including financial literacy, vocational education, GED preparation and testing, college level courses, employment readiness, and a host of others.

Offering praise for the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department and a call to action for more correctional organizations to replicate some of its success, Representative Rushing told the audience, “Though there are exceptional places where people are incarcerated like the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, don’t believe that anything that you hear from Superintendent Smith is happening anywhere else in the country. This is just unusual programming within what seems to be a growing number of people that don’t seem to be thinking this way. It is very hard, very difficult work to get others on board to change their way of thinking, but it’s also very worthwhile.”


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