FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 31, 2014
CONTACT: Peter Van Delft
Suffolk County Sheriff Steven W. Tompkins and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department recently hosted a tour of the House of Correction for United Independent Party gubernatorial candidate Evan Falchuk.
The tour, which was led by Superintendent Yolanda Smith and included Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department employees Dennis Guilfoyle, Valerie Barsom and Rachelle Steinberg, featured a comprehensive overview of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building; the Common Ground Institute where inmates are taught basic construction skills in order to secure future employment opportunities; the Women’s Unit, which includes C.R.E.W. (Community Reentry for Women); and educational programs, which include everything from GED to Parenting classes.
Stopping in at the Common Ground Institute, the group heard from Director of Vocational Programming John D’Amore who explained that the Common Ground Institute was a part of the Sheriff’s proactive approach to addressing recidivism.
Speaking about the Sheriff’s Department’s rehabilitative programming and mental health awareness training, Falchuk stated, “It’s like a community organization here. It’s amazing.”
“One thing we try to explain to all of the inmates that come here is that ‘you were sent here as punishment, not for punishment,’” said Superintendent Smith. “’So, let’s make the best of this time while you’re here and prepare you for a successful reentry.’”
At the conclusion of the tour Sheriff Tompkins met with Mr. Falchuk to compare notes and discuss the visit.
“What I just saw was different than the perception that the outside world has [about corrections],” Falchuk said to Sheriff Tompkins. “You have a school with a library. You encourage the inmates to come out of their cells.”
Sharing with Falchuk his vision about both the current and future shape of corrections, Sheriff Tompkins was emphatic about its critical role in society.
“Custody and control are part of our mandate, as is the care of inmates and detainees,” said Sheriff Tompkins. “That care, which is essentially guardianship, also entails providing a nurturing environment. We have the opportunity to work with people while they are with us and help them to return to society better than when they left, and that is a very important job.”
“I believe that corrections will ultimately be seen in a different light and that what we do for the people in our facilities will be woven into the fabric of public safety,” Sheriff Tompkins continued. “I believe that it will become a part of public officials’ understanding of public safety.”