Sheriff Maciol: Jail Graduation Ceremony Highlights Efforts to Help Oneida County Inmates Change Lives

Joined by government and community officials, Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol today presided over a unique graduation at the Oneida County Jail as a group of  inmates completed GED classes as well as Anger Management and Life Skills counseling. In all since July of this year, seven inmates earned GED Diplomas, one inmate earned a high school diploma, sixteen inmates completed Anger Management Classes, and twenty-eight inmates earned certificates in Employment Techniques.

“Our obligation to the community is to exert every possible effort to ensure that men or women who have made mistakes that brought them here have the tools they need to change their lives when they leave the facility,” Maciol said. “The challenge of corrections is one that we take very seriously, because if someone can learn from one mistake, and turn his or her life around, our society is that much safer. Corrections programming has to be geared towards helping inmates make the changes they need to make so that they do not return. That’s our goal.”

Maciol credited Mohawk Valley Community Action, which operates the Second Start Life Skills Program at the Correctional Facility, and OHM BOCES, which operates GED and anger management classes at the jail, highlighting the efforts of Sara McIntosh, Second Start Project Director, and Paul Salamy, GED Instructor and Anger Management Instructor to work with corrections officers. “The staff from our community partners work with corrections professionals day after day and understand the differences that come with working here in the facility.” He said. “The staff puts forth a lot of very positive energy under what can be difficult circumstances because they believe in what we are doing here. We are very pleased to have these partnerships because they help us in our work.”

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr., who attended the graduation, said that the efforts of the Sheriff's Office help the community said. " By having the inmates discuss and address the issues in their own lives that brought them here, there is the opportunity for real change. By getting a GED, they now have the option of college."

Picente noted that the jail's efforts will help local employers. "Employers are looking for people who are motivated to keep a job, stay out of trouble and succeed," Picente said. "The strong connection between the Correctional Facility and the Office of Workforce Development helps ensure that as inmates leave, they can transition to work."

During the ceremony, Picente urged the inmates not to stop what they had begun. "You took the first step, but there are more steps and more opportunities. Keep up the good work."

The GED, Second Start and Anger Management programs offer both academic and real world supports, including budgeting, relationship management, job search skills, making a resume, and changing behaviors that led to incarceration. “These classes work with the inmates as individuals,” Maciol said. “They all have gaps, and the individualized approach helps every participant here get the right support they need so they have a chance to succeed.”

Maciol said the programs, supported without cost to the county through the use of state and federal funds as well as non-taxpayer dollars secured by the correctional facility, are important for the public as well as the inmates. He noted that research shows that ex-offenders with a high school diploma and some type of skills training are more likely to find a job or go on to school and less likely to re-offend. “My vision for the Oneida County Correctional Facility is that we can create a safer Oneida County by working with partners by implementing programs such as this that create a successful transition of offenders from prison to living law-abiding and productive lives in their communities.  The offenders we release back to the community have the chance to turn their lives around. That’s the goal of corrections: Not just to provide punishment for the past, but to help people take a step toward a better future and promote community safety.”