FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
March 26, 2014
CONTACT: Peter Van Delft
Suffolk County Sheriff Steven W. Tompkins and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department recently hosted a tour for several Afghani delegates in addition to Associate Justice Robert Cordy and Administrative Attorney Pamela Lyons from the Supreme Judicial Court, and Krystal Lance from World Boston – the organization that helped to arrange the visit.
The group of delegates traveled more than six–thousand miles to learn about the United States criminal justice system and how it operates.
The tour, which was led by House of Correction Superintendent Yolanda Smith, included a visit to the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) building; inmate housing units; the Education Division, its library and classrooms; the Ricky Dever Medical Unit; a segregation unit, and even a visit to the mosque where inmates of the Muslim faith gather to pray.
Superintendent Smith brought the guests to the Education Division to witness some of its programming firsthand.
“We have close to ninety programs and we offer HiSET testing, which is a high school equivalency test, we have ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, writing classes, and we have a vocational track where inmates are taught trades like food service, print shop, carpentry, and more,” she said.
Upon visiting the Education Division and learning about the programming, one delegate expressed his surprise when learning that all of the services and programs were provided free of charge to the inmates.
At the end of the tour, Sheriff Tompkins stopped in to offer additional information and field questions from the group.
“We have between 1,400 and 1,500 inmates here,” said Sheriff Tompkins. “Eighty–five percent of our population is here because of some involvement with drugs, and 42% present with some form of mental illness. The first three days after they leave our care and custody are the toughest. In order to make that transition easier, they need housing, healthcare and employment. If they don’t have that, the chances of them returning to us are pretty high. So, what we do is place a strong emphasis on vocational education and look for jobs they can find employment in, despite having been incarcerated,” Sheriff Tompkins stated.
At the conclusion of the visit, one of the delegates thanked Sheriff Tompkins and the members of the Department on behalf of all the delegates for inviting them to learn more about the work that they do.
“Allow me to thank you all very much for accepting us here and opening your doors to us. We learned that [thought they are incarcerated] at least inmates here can receive an education.”
Sheriff Tompkins expressed how grateful he was that the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department can serve as a model used to teach people around the world about the criminal justice system in the country.
“I think it’s great that people come from all over the world to learn about our criminal justice system, and I’m honored that this Department has the opportunity to be a part of teaching,” said Sheriff Tompkins. “My hope is that our visitors took something valuable from their visit – particularly with respect to education and preparing these individuals to return home better than when they left. That’s really the key part of the whole equation.”