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Officials From Rikers Island Visit Suffolk County Jail

Categories: | Author: sheriff sheriff | Posted: 9/25/2015 | Views: 3655
Sheriff DeMarco Highlights Innovative Appraoch to Reducing Gang Violence

RIVERHEAD, NY-- Today, Sheriff Vincent F. DeMarco played host to a large contingent of officials from the New York City Department of Correction and Rikers Island, New York City’s main jail complex. The group visited the Suffolk County Correctional Facility to learn more about DeMarco’s correctional programs – in particular, the award winning Council for Unity and Youth Tier programs. This is the second time that Rikers officials have come to the jail in the past year. Commissioner Joseph Ponte and members of his staff visited Riverhead last September to discuss correctional reforms.

The visit comes at a time of heightened focus on issues related to crime reduction strategies and prisoner rehabilitation, and Ponte’s well-publicized goals to implement changes at Rikers Island to help reduce violence.

Officials from the New York City Department of Correction are pictured with Sheriff DeMarco at the Riverhead Jail.

According to Sheriff DeMarco, the goals are intertwined. “One of the lessons we have learned is that if your focus is reducing inmate violence, you need to have programs in place to combat gang activity. Programs like Council for Unity encourage these youth to drop their colors and many of them continue to stay connected with the Council once they’re released. Ultimately this is what it’s all about. We want to transition these kids back into the community and help them lead more productive lives. The jail is safer, the community is safer, and in the long run the taxpayers benefit because they don’t have to foot the cost of these youth cycling in and out of jail and prison,” said Sheriff DeMarco.

Commissioner Ponte stated, “We are pleased to have this opportunity to learn about these groundbreaking programs from Sheriff DeMarco and his Office and are eager to apply their insights to help reduce violence in our facilities. DOC staff has traveled to many jurisdictions in order to absorb best practices in our drive to become a national leader of correctional reform, especially in regard to adolescents and young adults.”

Sheriff DeMarco implemented Council for Unity at the Suffolk County Jail shortly after he took office in 2006 in an effort to reduce gang violence in the Riverhead Jail. It was the first correctional facility to embrace the program, which was developed by Robert DeSena nearly 40 years ago as a method to reduce gang-related crime in New York City schools.

During their visit, the group met with some young inmates, between the ages of 16 and 21, as they participated in a session of Council for Unity inside the Jail’s Chapel. Following the presentation, DeSena stated, “Sheriff DeMarco has made it a priority to reduce inmate violence and quell gang activity both inside and outside the correctional facility. Council for Unity is a proven methodology for diverting youth and adults from gangs, but also in regard to preventing future delinquency. I think the corrections community has now seen the effectiveness of this approach and they want to implement Riverhead’s model program.”

Sheriff DeMarco has been at the forefront of a national trend towards developing effective inmate rehabilitation programs and coordinating community-based services for individuals reentering our communities after spending time in jail. Due in part to these efforts, there has been a significant decrease in the county jail population since he first took office. In 2005, the daily jail population averaged close to 2000 inmates, and now that figure is less than 1400.

In 2011, Sheriff DeMarco launched the Youth Tier and Youth Reentry Task Force Initiative to improve outcomes for incarcerated youth in the county jails, and the award-winning program has become a national model in the field of corrections. He also serves as the Chair of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council where he has been working to improve coordination across the law enforcement continuum.


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