Suffolk County Sheriff Steven W. Tompkins and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department were joined by a group of partners and supporters for the official unveiling of the Department’s newest endeavor designed to reduce recidivism and promote public safety – the P.E.A.C.E. Unit.
Along with Sheriff Tompkins, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, newly-elected Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, Columbia Justice Lab Co-Founder Vincent Schiraldi, members of the Department and participants of the program, the event was attended by Boston Police Commissioner William Gross, State Representative Russell Holmes, former State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, the City of Boston’s Director of the Office of Public Safety Dan Mulhern and Director of the Office of Returning Citizens Kevin Sibley, as well as several other representatives of organizations spanning the county.
With an acronym “P.E.A.C.E.” that spells out to: “Positive Energy Always Creates Elevation,” this specialized housing unit brings together young men between the ages of 18 and 25 who have been remanded to Department custody and provides them with training and programming that has been intentionally calibrated to the mindset of their age group.
“Our P.E.A.C.E. Unit has been geared specifically to be a developmentally appropriate response to young offenders,” said Sheriff Tompkins. “As many people working in and around the criminal justice system are already well aware, emerging adults need specialized guidance and strong social networks to support them both behind the walls and in their communities – programming and services that differ from that of older, more mature offenders.”
As revealed by numerous reports about emerging adults by such organizations as the Harvard Kennedy School Program in Criminal Justice, MassINC, Roca, the Council of State Governments (CSG) and others, this age cohort typically possesses a lower level of maturity in judgment and less emotional regulation than older adults. Their reasoning skills and impulse control is still developing, and, so, the goal is to help these young men to learn how to begin making better and more mature decisions. The ultimate purpose of this program is to break the cycle of incarceration by focusing on education, job training and developing skillsets, individual/group counseling, attitudinal changes and conflict resolution.
Speaking about the program before directly addressing its participants, Mayor Walsh offered encouragement and shared his personal story of addiction and recovery.
“I want you to know that Sheriff Tompkins cares about you,” said Mayor Walsh. “He cares about all of the people who walk through that door. The highest mission of what corrections should be is to rehabilitate, to heal and to provide second chances. You made a mistake. You’re here. You’re doing your time. And, at some point, when you get released, that opportunity for second chances needs to be there, and so, I’m proud to be here in partnership with the Department for this program.”
Echoing Mayor Walsh’s sentiment, incoming District Attorney Rollins spoke about the potential of providing that second chance in the form of sentencing.
“I want to talk about the P.E.A.C.E. Unit as a possible sentencing tool,” said Rollins. I want to discuss using it in revising and revoking. Sheriff Tompkins is working to not have people [incarcerated] here. Ninety-five percent of the people incarcerated here are coming back to the community. We want them to come back healthy and employable. We don’t want them branded with a felony that won’t permit them to get housing or a job.”
Though operational since the first half of the year, this event marked the official public viewing of P.E.A.C.E. Unit.
PHOTOCAPTION: Suffolk County Sheriff Steven W. Tompkins (far right) was joined by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh (2nd from left), newly-elected Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins (far left), Columbia Justice Lab Co-Founder Vincent Schiraldi (2nd from right), Suffolk County Superintendent-In-Chief and Special Sheriff Michael Harris (center), speaker Terry Carter (4th from right) and two members of the Department’s new P.E.A.C.E. Unit, Keith Merriman and Carl Clinton.