Suffolk Sheriff Sets up Family-Oriented Cellblock to Keep Young Inmates out of Jail


By Simón Rios

It’s been six months since Gonzalo Ticas landed in South Bay House of Corrections in Boston’s South End. He was sentenced to a year for violating probation — and with a pending court case, he fears he could see more jail time.

“I’ll definitely be receiving more time, unfortunately, but I’m going to work hard,” he said. “So hopefully, [I’ll] get out sooner than later.”

Ticas is 23. He and two dozen other young inmates under 25 at South Bay have a reason to be optimistic about getting lenient treatment thanks to a new program launched by the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department.

It’s known as the PEACE unit — a cellblock designed to try to make sure young inmates never return.

“This is not your grandfather’s incarceration facility any longer,” said Sheriff Steve Tompkins, who runs South Bay as well as Nashua Street Jail in Boston.

Tompkins recently told a roomful of public officials and inmates that the PEACE unit — an acronym for “Positive Energy Always Creates Elevation” — is part of an effort to reshape the way people are treated behind bars.

“As we all know, this country incarcerates far too many of its citizens, and far too many black and brown and poor citizens,” he said. “And so this initiative is one way to address that situation.”

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