Across Norfolk County and the Commonwealth, we are in the height of graduation season. Seniors and parents alike are excited to see what the world holds but nervous about what comes next. It’s a moment of transition, and like all transitions, it can be a little unsettling, which is why we do everything we can to set our children up for success long before they graduate.
As sheriff, I have been thinking a lot about another important moment of transition, one for the justice-involved individuals in the House of Correction. The transition from the jail to society is a significant moment, not just for those individuals who are completing their sentence and their families, but for the Norfolk County Sheriff’s Office and the staff who have been working with these men on their rehabilitation.
Just as investing in our children is an investment in our society, investing in those who are in jail pays dividends to our communities. This is why the Norfolk County Sheriff’s Office focuses on helping each person in our custody improve themselves so that they not only understand how to make better decisions, but they’re able to make those kinds of choices when they return home.
At the Sheriff’s Office, this investment begins the moment a justice-involved individual enters our facility. We provide a wide array of programming and educational opportunities that help people navigate issues from addiction and self-care to financial literacy and employment readiness.
My goal is that every single person who goes through our facility is able to use their time here to improve their lives and set themselves up for success when they leave. Whether this involves our innovative recovery panels, in which justice-involved individuals are connected with community partners to help them navigate substance use in their post-release life, or industry-recognized certification classes that provide participants with concrete job skills they can use after they’ve re-entered their communities, these programs give people the skills and resources to make positive, lasting changes in their lives.
Setting people up for success also means providing a stable landing pad for those who have completed their time with us. One of the ways that we do this is by investing in and cultivating relationships with area organizations and employers to ensure that every person leaving the House of Correction has a support network in place.
For example, our partnership with the South Shore Workforce Development Board and the MassHire South Shore Career Center provides post-release stability and opportunities to our justice-involved individuals through job training, life-skills training, and consistent outreach and mentoring.
And we are actively working with employers to let them know the programs and benefits that exist to help support them in hiring former justice-involved individuals, including federal bonding programs and tax credits that protect employers and incentivize them to hire those who have served time. Additionally, our educational partnerships with institutions such as Massasoit Community College and Quincy College help to promote a culture of learning and training that keeps people on the right path.
As sheriff, I am proud of the work that we do to help people turn their lives around, but I also know that there is always more that we can do. This is why I’m always looking for new opportunities and ways to reduce recidivism, including programs we’re developing right now, such as small business seminars that show participants how to start up and run their own small businesses or an employment referral program that connects employers with people who have desirable skills.
We are also working with local chambers of commerce to further open as many post-release employment opportunities as possible.
Like our graduates, justice-involved individuals are at a crossroads in their lives. The Norfolk County Sheriff’s Office is invested in their success, because their success is our success. When we give people the resources — and the opportunity — to make good decisions and positive change, we all benefit, and we can see these benefits in our neighborhoods and communities.