Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction
The new Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction, dedicated January 5, 2001, is a direct supervision facility of 160,000 square feet, built on 25 acres. Located at 467 Cheshire Road in Pittsfield, the facility features 288 cells divided equally among eight two-tiered housing units, or pods. Total inmate capacity is about 500.
The pod design of the new facility is dramatically different from the linear cellblocks at the old Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction on Second Street. A pod is an architectural design for a housing unit of manageable size in which two tiers of cells are positioned within the perimeter of a common dayroom. Within the pod are an officer’s station, counseling rooms and an office. A recreation deck extends from each pod.
State funding for the $39.1 million project was approved in 1996. The groundbreaking ceremony, attended by Governor A. Paul Cellucci, was held Sept. 22, 1998. Construction began in March of 1999.
This computer driven, state-of-the-art operation, with advanced security technology, replaces the old Second Street jail, which was built in 1870 by Civil War veterans. That facility adequately served the correctional demands of Berkshire County for more than 100 years, but the antiquated building became overcrowded and inadequate to host the 21st century needs of a growing inmate population. For many years, the Second Street jail operated at double its intended capacity.
Making the transition “from Civil War to Star Wars,” the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction emphasizes education and treatment programs intended to offer inmates the opportunity for self-improvement upon their release. To that end, programs include classroom and vocational education, job skills evaluation and training and substance abuse counseling and treatment.
Sheriff’s 911 Dispatch Center
The Berkshire County Sheriff’s 911 Dispatch Center, located at the Sheriff’s Office headquarters at 467 Cheshire Road in Pittsfield, provides fire, police and ambulance emergency and non-emergency communications for twenty-six cities and towns.
After being located for many years in the basement of the Berkshire County Courthouse, the Dispatch Center moved to its new state-of-the-art quarters on Cheshire Road in March of 2006.
The new facility, funded by more than $1 million from the state Executive Office of Public Safety and the Department of Homeland Security, more than doubled the Dispatch Center’s operating space. The facility offers the most modern technology to serve the 9-1-1 emergency communication needs of its member communities and any others that wish to join the network. The center handles more than 30,000 calls, including more than 3,000 emergency 9-1-1 calls, in an average year.
Student Resource Center
In 2002, the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office took a major step toward addressing the needs of at-risk youth by establishing the Student Resource Center at the Sheriff’s Office Second Street facility at 264 Second Street in Pittsfield.
A collaboration of the Sheriff’s Office and the Pittsfield School Department, the mission of the Student Resource Center is to provide a safe and secure environment in which students are provided the opportunity to fulfill their potential. This is accomplished by providing education, casework, counseling and employment services.
The program offerings, which will be described in the following paragraphs, are designed to enable youth at risk of dropping out to complete their education and to graduate from high school.
Short Term Suspension Program
The Short Term Suspension Program provides supervision and tutoring to all secondary students in the Pittsfield and North Adams school districts who are suspended from three to nine days. Students report to the SRC, where they attend classes to complete academic work assigned by the teachers in their home schools. Each student is given the opportunity to remain current in his or her schoolwork and be considered in attendance for the school day. Tutors assist the students with their assignments, which are sent back to the home school teachers upon completion. Students are also given the opportunity to meet with counselors who assist them with the many personal issues of adolescence, assistance in attaining employment and substance abuse classes and counseling. All of these services are provided in a structured, safe and nurturing environment. The program is housed in a 140-year-old facility, which formerly served as a jail, an now provides an environment of hope to adolescents in need.
Long Term Suspension Program
This program provides the same services as those described above under short term suspension. It is for students who have committed a serious infraction, warranting a suspension of 10 days through an indefinite period. The goal with these students is to continue their education, earning credits toward graduation while helping them to understand the serious nature of their behavior. In addition, each of these students is encouraged to work toward re-entry into the school system, and to develop lifelong career skills.
Truancy Intervention Program
The Truancy Intervention Program is designed to assist students and their parents whereby attendance patterns are unsatisfactory. A uniformed correctional officer is available to assist students and parents, as well as teachers and administrators within the school system. The activities that he uses to encourage students to attend school include home visits, on-the-street interventions, telephone contacts, in-school meetings and letters to parents. When these efforts fail to correct poor attendance, the officer will use the judicial system as a last resort.
Day Treatment Program
The Day Treatment Program provides anger management and substance abuse classes to adolescents who have been referred through Berkshire Juvenile Court. Young people attend one-hour classes for six to eight weeks. They receive certificates of completion based on their performance. This program also includes continual communication with the individual’s parole officer and parents. It may also include drug testing, if such is requested by the parents or court officer.
Summer Success Program
The Summer Success Program consists of five weeks of classes in math, language arts and American history. Students who have failed ninth grade and would be required to repeat that grade in the ensuing year are eligible for Summer Success. Completion of the summer program enables a student to earn 10 credits per course, for a total of 30. Successful students enter school in September as sophomores. This program provides a significant boost to young people’s morale and enhances their chance to graduate from high school in three years.
Upperclassmen are eligible to complete credit recovery courses during the summer at the SRC using Plato software. They are required to attend daily two-hour sessions for five weeks. Staff are on site to offer instructional assistance and monitor student progress.
Educational Options For Success
The Educational Options For Success (EOS) program is designed to help students who require the small, safe, structured environment of the SRC, where they receive personalized instruction in academic subjects, life skills and vocational training. Many of these students divide their day between the JRC and their home school, while others spend the full day at the SRC. The ultimate goal for all students is to have them be fully re-integrated into their home school and to graduate from high school.