A visit to any correctional facility produces an uneasy feeling. The Suffolk County jail in Riverhead is no different. The high fence topped with barbed wire and razor-ribbon along with the checkpoints and uniformed armed guards allowed Huntington High School students to understand quickly that this place was the “real thing.”
About 30 teenagers enrolled in either Criminal Justice or Personal Law I courses with Huntington teachers Erik Bruckbauer and Suzie Biagi participated in a trip to the jail. “It was a once in a lifetime experience that will stay with them forever,” Mrs. Biagi said.
The students participated in the Youth Enlightenment Seminar (YES) initiative at the complex. The program allows teachers to accompany their students into the Riverhead jail in order to experience first-hand what life is like for those who are incarcerated.
The Huntington contingent toured the male and female tiers and several floors of the facility and spent time with inmates in the visiting room. They were provided with a first-hand view of how a person lives after losing their freedom as a result of poor decisions.
Huntington students participated in the
Suffolk Sheriff's YES program at the Riverhead jail.
“The tour of the correctional facility plus spending time with a select group of inmates who share their personal situation is a life changer,” Mrs. Biagi said. The facility has 769 cells.
“Our YES program stresses education and reality,” Suffolk Sheriff Vincent DeMarco said. “By giving kids a realistic view of what lies ahead if they cross that line, we hope that it will leave a strong enough imprint in their minds to stop them from engaging in criminal acts.”
The YES program carried the intended wallop. “You’re not going to see me going to jail” one of the Huntington students said. Another commented that the “place is scary and you have no freedom. It was grimy, had a weird smell and I felt very uncomfortable. I definitely know it’s a place I never want to go.”
The trip spurred many conversations on the way home. “Two of the inmates the group met with in the jail chapel were minors and as they told their stories you could hear a pin drop,” Mrs. Biagi said. “It was a real eye-opener for them to hear firsthand accounts of how a seemingly innocent evening out with friends landed them in jail.”
Mrs. Biagi and Mr. Bruckbauer plan to bring a new group of students to Riverhead in February.