Visit to Riverhead Jail Carries Shock Factor
Entering the grounds of the Suffolk Correctional Facility in Riverhead can be a somewhat unsettling experience. The high fence topped with barbed wire and razor ribbon along with the checkpoints and uniformed armed guards create a certain "shock and awe" factor, especially for high school students.
A group of Huntington High School students enrolled in Street Law I and criminal justice classes recently visited the eastern Suffolk jail that houses thousands of prisoners. Teacher Suzi Biagi joked that the visit is an annual favorite "probably because at the end of the field trip everyone gets to go home."
The students participated in the Youth Enlightenment Seminar (YES) initiative at the complex. "The program allows teachers to accompany their children into the Riverhead Correctional Facility in order to experience first-hand what life may be like if they end up incarcerated," said Ms. Biagi, a business teacher who accompanied the students along with social studies faculty colleague Erik Bruckbauer.
The 42 teenagers making the long trek "learned more in one day at the correctional facility than any book could possible teach them," Ms. Biagi said. "They toured the female and male tiers and several floors of the facility and visited with inmates in the visiting room. They also got a first had view of how a person who has lost their freedom due to poor decisions lives."
A Huntington sophomore who went on the jail visit said "the trip was an experience that made me really think about how the prisoners live and how each one us is responsible for keeping ourselves out. It made me really rethink certain things in my life and now I'm more responsible and careful with myself. I think everyone should go on the trip, it will open their eyes." Another trip is planned for March 2012.
The jail tour culminated two days of corrections-related exploration beginning with a visit to Huntington High School by a Suffolk deputy sheriff who made a detailed presentation to students on the history of the Suffolk jail, its rules and regulations and some of its current inmates. A highlight of the classroom presentation involved the displaying of contraband items that have been confiscated from prisoners. Ms. Biagi called it a type of "show and tell."
The jail visit program is offered through the office of Suffolk Sheriff Vincent F. DeMarco by appointment only and is designed to provide a realistic lesson for young people about how the wrong path could affect their future.