Sheriff’s Department Column: “An Ounce of Prevention”

Jeff Perry

BOURNE – There is hardly a day that goes by without a narcotics arrest, overdose or addiction story in the news.

Working at a correctional facility, most often we see the “down-stream” effects of such illegal drug use when individuals are sent to jail awaiting trial or sentenced for months or years.

While we have had great success working to rehabilitate those in our custody, if society is going to successfully stem the tide of the addiction crisis in the United States and all of its negative impacts, significantly more effort must be directed towards prevention.

According to published reports, we spend less than one-percent on prevention as compared to the total cost of addiction on society.

Specifically thinking about prevention, the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) not only “locks up” those arrested for drug offenses, but we also work closely with many community partners on prevention.

For example, I serve on Gosnold’s Prevention Partnership Committee and Roger Allen, our Treatment Director, is a member of the County’s Regional Substance Abuse Council.

More importantly, Sheriff Cummings has dedicated two deputies to work with the Cape’s youth. The Sheriff’s Youth Program deputies provide locals schools with informational presentations relative to teen drug use and abuse, internet safety and bullying.

These classes are provided to schools to assist in educating students, staff and parents on relevant subject matter such as “what’s out there”, warning signs, prevention and where to go for help.

Every summer, the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office runs a four week academy for youth from Barnstable County to provide a supportive environment where youth between the ages of 12 and 16 develop pro-social skills and increased resiliency.

This collaborative effort brings together specially trained staff from correctional, educational, police and treatment facilities committed to helping kids achieve important physical, emotional and intellectual developmental goals.

The BCSO Youth Academy focuses on self-control, respect, teamwork, integrity, communication and decision-making skills.

The Youth Academy has shown great success at empowering children, families and communities to stop violence, substance abuse, delinquency and crime.

The program also aims to prevent adult incarceration of our youth by meeting developmental needs early and positively through effective prevention/intervention services. Students are recommended into the program by teachers, counselors, police officers and parents.

If you know of a youth who might benefit from our 2017 Youth Academy, please reach out to us.

The BCSO offers the Bring Awareness & Reality to Students (B.A.R.S.) program to local school districts and police departments to expose students to the consequences of crime and the harsh realities of prison life.

Students taking criminal law, criminology or criminal justice classes are brought into the Barnstable County Correctional Facility for a tour with their class and teachers.

This tour provides students with the visual understanding of the day-to-day living conditions for inmates and the operations of a correctional facility.

The BARS program presents local schools with the opportunity to provide a forum for BCSO staff and inmates to discuss with students the consequences of alcohol and drug use, violence and crime. The program is designed to eliminate false impressions of jail life and the consequences of the choices they make on a daily basis.

Once the students see what life in a jail is really like, any “coolness” wears off quickly and hopefully serves as a deterrent.

Sheriff Cummings’ newest addition to our prevention program offerings is the G.R.E.A.T. Program (Gang Resistance Education and Training.) This program is an effective crime, violence, drug abuse and gang prevention program taught to students at the middle school age for the deterrence of delinquency, youth violence and gang resistance.

The violence prevention curriculum teaches skills that help students avoid drugs, crime, gangs, and their attendant violence by zeroing in on beliefs, patterns of behavior, and other factors that help students avoid destructive habits.

Launched in the Mashpee middle schools, the GREAT program has been very well received by teachers and students alike. Hopefully more school districts will embrace such classes in their communities.

Prevention efforts to keep our kids safe and healthy certainly start at home with parents and family members. Nothing is more important than parents being a proper role model for their children and having those difficult and uncomfortable conversations.

As every parent knows, if these talks are not initiated from a parent, our children are going to get information from their friends or the Internet. It makes sense that they hear accurate information from us first and often.

In addition to parents, we all have a role in the prevention of youth crime and drug abuse. We at the Sheriff’s Office are striving to do our part. If we can ever be of assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact us.

[Special Sheriff Perry is second in command at the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office. Prior to starting here six years ago, he was a state representative, a police sergeant, and a small businessman. He is also a lawyer and has taught criminal law part-time at Cape Cod Community College. He can be reached at 508-563-4302 or at [email protected] . The headline quote here belongs to Ben Franklin and was of course completed with “ . . . is worth a pound of cure.”]


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