April 16, 2018

At Middlesex House of Corrections in Massachusetts, the P.A.C.T. unit, which stands for People Achieving Change Together, opened in February, 2018. P.A.C.T. was born out of a collaboration between Middlesex County and the Vera Institute of Justice, a non-profit research group based in New York City. The premise of the unit is to reflect life on the outside. Inmates there have more freedom. Cell doors open at 7:30 a.m. and stay open until 9 p.m., sometimes later.

The Vera Institute looked to Germany’s prison system as a model, which places great emphasis on rehabilitation and socialization for reentry. In Germany, inmates wear street clothes and prepare their own meals. They report to jobs off-campus. It’s a philosophy Vera director Alex Frank is hopeful more prisons in this country will try out.

In Connecticut, which launched its own young adult unit in the Cheshire Correctional Institution over a year ago, Commissioner Scott Semple says there have been no discipline issues since the unit opened and corrections officers and inmates have mutual respect for each other. Officers now refer to inmates as “mentees.”

“It’s worked out quite well for us,” Semple says. “It’s not uncommon for me to show up at that facility in that particular unit and the staff would be engaged in some kind of program or playing a board game with a mentee.”

And what I’m really hoping for, most of all, is that this type of unit can be replicated across not just Massachusetts, but across the nation in jail cells,” says Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian.

From WGBH News.

Read the full article here.

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