PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Tom Bowler, candidate for Berkshire County sheriff, on Wednesday proposed expanding existing programs at the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction in a comprehensive new effort to assist children whose parents are inmates at the jail. The new initiative is aimed at breaking the cycle of incarceration.
The program would feature collaboration with social service and mental health agencies, as well as a strong emphasis on existing youth and recreational agencies. The focus of the expanded programming would be on both the offender and their children.
"The older I get, the more I realize that the greatest gift given to me during my life was the foundation established in a loving home where both parents were actively involved in raising responsible children," Bowler said. "The children of some of the offenders at the jail will never know the value of this kind of family foundation."
According to national statistics, the children of incarcerated parents are at least 2.5 times more likely to be incarcerated themselves. The statistics also reveal that children of incarcerated parents tend to have more arrests and more problems with behavior, relationships, school and substance abuse.
"We need to stop this cycle of crime and to do that, we have to expand existing programming to address at-risk youth," Bowler said.
Statistics from 2009 at the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction indicate that 1,059 individuals were booked at the facility and of that number, 833 of the incarcerated men and women each had an average of two children.
Bowler said there is already a full range of programs at the jail that address the significant issues that led to an individual's incarceration, including drug and alcohol addiction, or a lack of education or vocational training.
"But all too often, these offenders are also parents of little kids, and it is their children who are the most vulnerable victims of their crimes," he continued. "I want to expand on existing programming to include courses on how to be better parents. I want offenders to see a much bigger picture — that their obligation to the community must expand beyond improving themselves and also include providing a better life for their children."
The second emphasis of the expanded programming would be on the children of offenders by collaborating with social service, mental health and local recreational agencies to help fill the gaps in their lives while a parent is incarcerated.
"All kids need to be involved in good activities that help them gain confidence and find positive role models. When a parent is in jail, kids desperately need the involvement of other adults in their lives," Bowler said. "There are so many youth and recreational agencies in our community that can have a lasting impact on a child's life if we make a better effort to connect the kids of incarcerated offenders with the leaders of these agencies."
Bowler and his wife, Dayle, are the parents of four children.
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This is a step in the right direction ... the children have to be shown a diffrent way; and they need to know that it will be the only way to achieve their goals. Everyone has goals deep inside no matter what their environment!
I hope Tom makes these changes within the existing program ... VOTE BOWLER 9/14
Wow, fantastic, Mr. Bowler has finally said something. Anything. Children are popular, let's say something about them.
I'm sure he's a great cop, but as a Berkshire resident, I want someone that's ready to go to work the minute the primary is over and has been coming up with great ideas for the whole campaign. Dan Bosley has done this. He's prepared, thoughtful, and experienced (all of which came out during the debates which the Bowler camp could hardly have been happy about).
Too often the children of those incarcerated are left behind with little guidance esp. from the parent that is in the House of Correction.
Many of these parents never had the guidance in their own homes and currently many lack the understanding of how to nurture a child even though many of these parents really love their children.
The expansion of the program that Tom Bowler refers to is certainly a positive step in the right direction. The more we can do to assist offenders in developing good life and parenting skills, the better chance that the children have in becoming productive citizens.
Experience, dedication and creativity are the strong bedrock that Tom Bowler leadership is based on. We need and should demand that such skill be present in all our elected officials.
Get out on the 14th of September and make your voice heard in an effective manner. Vote Tom Bowler for Sheriff.
Clarksburg: Election, May 27, noon to 7; town meeting, June 18
Williamstown: Election, May 13, 7-8; town meeting, May 20, 7 p.m.
The cities of Pittsfield and North Adams will hold municipal elections for mayor, city council and school committee in 2015
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