This past month, the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department Family Matters Program launched the Community Consortium Initiative, a series of meetings for service providers to foster community connected practice with the intention of building resources to serve and strengthen the families of the incarcerated. 

The meeting, convened at the Ella J. Baker House in Dorchester, kicked off with welcoming remarks by the Department's Family Matters Program Director Karla Walker. 

"We are all here today to discuss our work and look into the international partnerships that we can build upon the communities we work with forward," said Walker. 

The meeting began with introductions of members from 31 service providers, followed by an overview of the Family Matters program. 

Family Matters is a voluntary program under the Division of Re-Integration Services at the Suffolk House of Correction developed to assist inmates and their families with working toward positive relationships. The issues facing the currently incarcerated upon release are numerous, often confounding, and have a drastic impact on all of the connected relationships. In an effort to assist those in the care and custody of the Department to re-enter society more successfully, the program targets families because of the powerful role that they can play in supporting, guiding and inspiring currently incarcerated individuals upon their release. 

Launched in 2015, the program started with an event in which service providers across Boston, Chelsea, Winthrop and Revere came together to discuss how to better forge relationships with community-based partners. Since its inception, the Family Matters Program has evolved from its earlier role as an entity that primarily focused on providing referrals to resources for the families of recently released former offenders. 

Through the building of intentional community partnerships, the Family Matters Program hopes to continue to create strong relationships with agencies to deliver services to families before individuals are related. In an effort to build positive rapports, incarcerated individuals at the Suffolk County House of Correction are introduced to a number of community support providers to whom they will later be referred upon their release. 

Representatives from Family Matters' primary partners also spoke about the way in which intentional partnerships work, as well as the success that they've had and the opportunities that these partnerships present. Attendees of the meeting then broke out into groups to discuss how to best deliver services through community connected practices. Building off of their collective expertise, members of the Community Consortium generated next steps directed at strengthening the families and communities of Suffolk County. 

"I am really proud of this program because we engage our population with hopefulness," said Walker. "Our objective for the program and Community Consortium is to build upon and strengthen families while an individual is incarcerated, when they are related and beyond."