BILLERICA, Mass. – Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian recently welcomed Berlin’s Director General of Prison and Probation Administration and Department of Criminal Law Susanne Gerlach, and Ministerial Advisor for Prison Supervision Johanna Schmid for a visit to the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office’s (MSO) new young adult unit.
The German officials were visiting the United States as part of the Vera Institute of Justice’s Restoring Promise conference. The Restoring Promise Initiative is focused on transforming living conditions for incarcerated young adults (ages 18-24) across the country in order to produce better outcomes for individuals and communities.
The MSO was the first local jail the Vera Institute of Justice worked with to support the opening of a young adult unit, having only previously worked with the Connecticut Department of Correction. The MSO’s P.A.C.T. (People Achieving Change Together) program opened in February.
“It was an honor to welcome Director Gerlach and Advisor Schmid to the Middlesex Jail & House of Correction. We have conducted several of these peer exchanges with national counterparts, but to expand to the international community underscores how universal this work is,” said Sheriff Koutoujian. “We continue to seek and share best practices wherever they are implemented, with the goal of making our programs as effective as they can be. We deeply appreciate the valuable insight offered by Director Gerlach, as well as the continued support we have received from our partners at Vera.”
During their visit to the Middlesex Jail & House of Correction, German officials met with MSO staff and administrators, as well as young offenders participating in the P.A.C.T. program. They learned about the daily operations of the unit and some of the specialized treatment programs P.A.C.T. members participate in.
“Visiting the P.A.C.T. unit and learning about what the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office already achieved by implementing the program for young adults was an outstanding experience for us,” said Director Gerlach. “In Germany we have a long history of separating juvenile and adult offenders. Through that we have had a great experience with specialized programs for the treatment of young offenders to support them to become socially responsible and full members of our society again. Furthermore in my opinion an atmosphere of social security and respect as created in the P.A.C.T. unit is essential for successful outcomes with young and also with adult offenders. Therefore the work that is being done in the new unit should be supported by all means.”
“For too long, creating humane and dignified conditions of confinement was an overlooked aspect of reform, however, PACT’s participation in Restoring Promise has helped blaze the trail for a national movement that we believe will change the face of justice for years to come,” said Alexandra Frank, Project Director for Vera’s Restoring Promise Initiative. “We’ve heard people who live and work in PACT reflect: we can’t and won’t go back. That’s exactly the type of commitment that Restoring Promise has always aimed to accomplish, and we are equally committed to supporting MSO realize this vision, appreciative of our partnership with Director Gerlach and other international partners, and excited for all that is still to come.”
As part of a review of the Commonwealth’s justice system in 2016, the Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSG) found 18-to 24-year-olds released from Massachusetts correctional facilities have higher recidivism rates than older offenders. CSG reported 52% of those released from houses of correction and 56% of those released by the department of correction were re-incarcerated within three years.
Nationwide, 18- to 24-year-olds comprise 10 percent of the population, but account for 21 percent of all individuals admitted to adult prisons each year.