Civic education class underway at Middlesex Jail & House of Correction

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Project Citizen facilitator Ed O’Connell (l) and Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian speak with program participants at the Middlesex Jail & House of Correction Nov. 6.
Photo/submitted

Region – A new initiative aimed at enhancing civic engagement is now under way at the Middlesex Jail & House of Correction.

Individuals, all of whom are participants in the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office emerging adults program, are taking part in a modified version of Project Citizen – an educational initiative that promotes competent and responsible participation in community affairs and government. It helps participants learn how to monitor and influence public policy, particularly at the local and state levels. 

Like other civic education programs of its kind – though a national forerunner in terms of its correctional facility setting – Project Citizen affords participants the opportunity to build upon other educational opportunities and resources offered by the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office and to develop skills necessary for future success. Among the skills highlighted in this and other programs are effective oral and written communication skills, critical thinking skills, effective teamwork and leadership.

The program is being facilitated by Melrose School Committee Chair Ed O’Connell, who was himself formerly incarcerated.

“It’s an honor and privilege to be able to work with a group of young adults who are committed to not only improving their own lives, through educational opportunities aimed at personal development, but who are also committed to developing the skills necessary to make a positive impact in their communities,” O’Connell said.  

Over the course of 12 weeks, participants will interact with outside professionals with expertise in public policy and other related areas. Participants will also identify a public policy issue, develop a strategy to address it, and present their approach to community stakeholders as a class project.

“Upon release from incarceration, these young men will be ready to engage in the civic life of their communities as active and informed citizens, each with the capacity to carry out their civic responsibilities and to add value where they live and work.”

Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian thanked O’Connell and remarked: “This initiative builds upon efforts we have undertaken at the Middlesex Jail & House of Correction to educate those in our care and custody about the role they can play in bettering their communities through community engagement. Whether it’s helping individuals register to vote or giving them the tools to identify and address public policy issues that directly impact them and their families, we are empowering individuals to improve their lives and our communities.”