New Resource Center Helps Exiting Inmates Transition Back into Society

The new resource center at the Suffolk County jail in Yaphank is a dream realized for Suffolk County Sheriff Errol D. Toulon Jr. Photo: Courtesy Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s office celebrated the opening of its new center aimed at helping inmates leaving the jail with transitional services on Thursday.

Sheriff’s Transition and Re-entry Team (S.T.A.R.T.) Resource Center had a soft launch in February and has been open since, but a ribbon-cutting planned for early April was postponed due to COVID-19.

The S.T.A.R.T. Resource Center is on the grounds of the Yaphank jail and offers a range of practical transitional services, including employment assistance, connections to housing, treatment and mental healthcare, clothing, food — and even advice on how to handle the pandemic. In fact, it helped more than 100 clients during the height of the pandemic.

The center is a unique and innovative model that has been a dream of Sheriff Errol D. Toulon Jr.’s. He developed the idea based on his experiences working for more than 30 years in the field of law enforcement and corrections.

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“When I was a young child, I asked my father, a warden on Riker’s Island, what he did for a living. He said, ‘We rehabilitate people.’ That stuck with me throughout my 30-year career in law enforcement and creating this Resource Center is the realization of a lifelong dream to send people back into the community with the tools they need to be productive members of society.”

His father was on hand for the ceremony.

Correction officers and human service volunteers from the non-profit community staff the center. Three Correctional Counselors interview inmates upon incarceration to assess their needs while behind bars and post-incarceration, according to information on the Sheriff’s website. Then Community Correction Officers create a discharge plan for the individual’s successful reentry into the community.

When the individual is released from jail, they visit the resource center, where the needs identified by the counselors are addressed by staff and other service providers. “At this time, the warm hand-off to the community begins and lines of communication are established for follow-up care,” the website states. The center is available at any time to the individual for follow-up assistance.

Among the services offered, the Department of Labor offers resume writing help, offers mock interviews, and helps connect employees with potential employers. New Hour offers parenting classes, BOCES provides literacy workshops and vocational programs, the Family Service League offers mental health support, trauma counseling, and addiction services and treatment. There are resources for veterans, too. ​

More than 30 local elected officials and non-profit sector leaders joined Toulon to celebrate the S.T.A.R.T. Resource Center on Thursday.

Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini, who spoke at the event, said “The Sheriff and I want to use the criminal justice system as a way to help people. This resource center does just that.”

The center is located at 200 Glover Drive in Yaphank, those taking Suffolk County Transit Bus S68 should get off at the Probation Stop. It is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments are preferred by calling 631-852-5391. More information is available at suffolksheriff.com.

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