Suffolk County Sheriff Errol D. Toulon Jr. was joined by representatives from AT&T, Stony Brook University, and County and Babylon Town officials to announce the first community-based Sheriff’s Transition and Reentry Team (START) Resource Center satellite location in Wyandanch at the new headquarters for the non-profit Spin the Yard, Inc. This satellite location was made possible, in part, through a $40,000 contribution from AT&T and is located at 1529 Straight Path, in the heart of the Wyandanch Business District.
The START Resource Center offers a range of practical transitional services for people leaving the county jail, including employment assistance, connections to housing, treatment and mental healthcare, clothing, food, pandemic advice, and so much more. It is staffed by correction officers and human service volunteers from the non-profit community. In 2020, more than 220 individuals visited the Center to meet with county correction officers following their period of incarceration at the County Jail. More than 1000 former inmates also received personalized written transition plans to help them navigate employment and social services and received housing assistance and transportation to safe locations.
Spin the Yard was founded by William Certain who served time in federal prison and concluded that prisoners spent more time “spinning the yard” than gaining important life skills. He and his wife, Renita, have a passion for helping others, and have been assisting transitioning inmates at the START Resource Center in Yaphank since it opened its doors last year. Through the assistance of AT&T, and with a boost from an Economic Inclusion Initiative grant from the Town of Babylon, Spin the Yard opened a new spacious storefront in Wyandanch in February. Individuals leaving the correctional facility and heading back to the community will now have a place to attend group meetings, receive case management services, and receive employment assistance. Community Correctional Counselors from the START Center will also meet with clients at the new site by appointment.
In September, Sheriff Toulon successfully began expanding the START Resource Center into the community when he launched the Family Reunification Initiative in partnership with the Stony Brook University’s School of Social Welfare with the support of AT&T. The program pairs social work student interns with county inmates and their families, with an emphasis on addressing the unmet needs of children with incarcerated parents. Today the Sheriff announced that jail’s interns will also work with clients at Spin the Yard’s Wyandanch location.
This expansion of services represents Sheriff Toulon’s vision to bring transitional services directly into communities and closer to families affected by justice-system involvement.
Sheriff Toulon said, “We are stronger when all sectors of a community come together to solve real everyday problems. We know that people leaving jail and prisons have intensive needs, and if left unaddressed, they will often return to criminal behavior. I think organizations like Spin the Yard, AT&T, and Stony Brook University working with a unified purpose alongside law enforcement sends a strong message that we share a common vision to improve people’s lives.”
Will Certain from Spin the Yard said, “We repeat what we fail to repair and that’s why Spin the Yard is committed to changing the narrative and helping those coming out of jail and prison. We appreciate everyone from the community that is helping us serve our clients, including Sheriff Toulon and the START Resource Center staff, our partners in the Town of Babylon, and AT&T for their generous donation to support our work.”
Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean Pierre said, “We know it takes a village when it comes to addressing the issues and needs confronted by individuals and families impacted by the criminal justice system, and the expansion of the START Resource Center into the Wyandanch will be such a tremendous asset to those transitioning out of the system into our local communities. I am so thankful to Sheriff Toulon for his leadership on this important issue, and my heartfelt appreciation goes to AT&T, Spin the Yard, Stony Brook University and all stakeholders who are collaborating and supporting such an important initiate that will make a real difference in the lives of our neighbors seeking a fresh start on the path towards success.”
“When I visited the S.T.A.R.T. Resource Center this past summer I was immediately impressed with the passion Sheriff Toulon and his team displayed towards creating opportunities for previously incarcerated residents to have a true second chance,” said Legislator Jason Richberg. “Partnering this program with Spin the Yard and all of the other community stakeholders here today gives residents of the Wyandanch community and surrounding areas access to services that can give them a much needed hand towards changing their lives for the better. Thank you to the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Errol Toulon for all of their work on this important endeavor.”
Babylon Town Councilman DuWayne Gregory stated, “This initiative will help those transitioning back to society by aligning services and tools necessary for their success and to reduce recidivism.”
“AT&T is proud to collaborate with Sheriff Toulon and Suffolk County officials as well as academic and nonprofit leaders in this effort to prevent recidivism by helping community members transition successfully into society after being incarcerated,” said Amy Kramer, President, AT&T New York. “This contribution is part of AT&T’s effort to address societal needs, racial inequities, and social justice by supporting organizations that are making meaningful and equitable change in communities across our state and our nation, and we applaud all of the partners involved for working together across all community sectors to help strengthen this initiative.”
AT&T’s support for Spin the Yard, START Resource Center and the Family Reunification Initiative is part of the Company’s ongoing commitment to working with and supporting leading organizations across the country to advance social and racial justice, while creating economic opportunities to foster upward mobility for Black, Brown and underserved communities that have faced long-standing social inequities and higher unemployment. AT&T has also contributed more than $800,000 to social justice initiatives and organizations across the state that help people go back to work during the pandemic and that encourage police sensitivity training and reentry skill programing, including the Osborne Association, Center for Community Alternatives, the YMCA of Greater New York City, the Center for Employment Opportunities, the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, and the Ladies of Hope Ministry.
“Sheriff Toulon has embraced a culture of corrections that should be a national model for reform, said Dr. Frances Brisbane, Vice President for Health Sciences and Workforce Diversity, Stony Brook University, School of Social Welfare. The START Resource Center provides the foundation from which law enforcement and the community can truly work in unison to protect public safety, provide treatment for justice involved individuals, and address the unmet needs of their children and families. Stony Brook University is pleased to be a partner in this important work.”
Jacqueline B. Mondros, D.S.W., Dean & Assistant Vice President for Social Determinants of Health, Stony Brook University, School of Social Welfare said, “We are thrilled about this new partnership with the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office. The Family Reunification Program as part of the START Resource Center will help inmates and their families deal with the multiple problems they face in the reentry to society, removing obstacles that have led to the revolving door of the prison system. Our students will be prepared with cutting edge skills to address some of the underlying issues the children of inmates face when they have an incarcerated parent. The opportunities afforded by this partnership align with the School’s mission to cultivate graduates who are grounded in social justice, human dignity and respect.”
Warren Graham, Assistant Dean for Stony Brook University School of Social Welfare stated, “To effectively teach the next generation of social workers, agents of social change, advocates for social justice and human rights, we need community partners. Partners like the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, the Start Resource Center, and Spin the Yard. Social workers and social work interns are integral in providing mental health support to community members experiencing both a disconnect from and reentry into the community.”
New York State Secretary of State & Chair of the New York State Council on Community Re-Entry Rossana Rosado said, “New York is a leader in its commitment to removing barriers and providing opportunities for justice-involved to have a successful return to their communities. During this critical time, I am proud of New York’s private, public and nonprofit sector partners for stepping up to support New Yorkers by investing in effective pathways for successful reintegration. By providing resources for families to connect and building partnerships with community-based organizations, AT&T is setting an example for other companies to follow and delivering a second chance to people across the state.”
ABOUT THE START RESOURCE CENTER
The START Resource Center has been in operation since February of 2020, and in that time, it has helped more than 220 individuals. The START Resource Center is located at 200 Glover Drive in Yaphank. Appointments may be made by calling 631-852-5391. It can also be found on Facebook and Instagram @theSTARTcenter.
About Philanthropy & Social Innovation at AT&T
Our society doesn’t work if it doesn’t work equally for all. We recognize that inequalities are pervasive and we have a role to play in helping to address them. That’s why we’re committed to advancing education, creating opportunities, strengthening communities and improving lives, particularly amongst historically underserved populations. We have a long history of investing in projects that promote academic and economic achievement and addressing community needs that promote social justice and racial equality. With a financial commitment of $650 million through AT&T Aspire since 2008, AT&T has leveraged technology, relationships and social innovation to help give people – regardless of age, gender, race or socioeconomic status – the opportunity to succeed.