Inmates celebrate graduation at OCCF

By WKTV News

ORISKANY, N.Y. (WKTV) - A graduation ceremony was held Tuesday evening, but it wasn't inside of a school. This graduation ceremony was held inside the Oneida County Correctional Facility in Oriskany. It marks the accomplishments of a group of inmates there.

More than a dozen inmates celebrated either receiving their GED or completing an anger management or life skills counseling.

Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol and County Executive Anthony Picente were on hand along with representatives from Oneida County BOCES and Mohawk Valley Community Action.

This isn't the first time these ceremonies have been held inside the walls of the correctional facility- but it is the first time it was open to the media. "Within the facility, we are working to make a difference in what goes on beyond the fence," Sheriff Maciol said. "We have some outstanding community partners and some dedicated corrections staff who are devoting a lot of effort to programming designed to promote public safety and reduce recidivism."

"My vision for the Oneida County Correctional Facility is that we can create a safer Oneida County by working with partners by implementing programs such as theses that create a successful transition of offenders from prison to living law-abiding and productive lives in their communities," Maciol said. "The offenders we release back to the community have the chance to turn their lives around. That's the goal of corrections: Not just to provide punishment for the past, but to help people take a step toward a better future and promote community safety."

Officials stress these individuals are taking an active role in their future-- and taking a step forward in their rehabilitation. Inmate Ryan Nicholas is serving time for assault. He completed anger management. "I had an anger problem and I'm trying to work through it," said Nicholas. "That's one of the first steps in any program, really. Is to admit that you have a problem and then work through it. I'm glad I'm here. I'm proud of myself."

Lt. Lisa Zurek addressed the group of graduates at the ceremony. "You guys got to remember that it takes a bigger man or woman to do that. Come out and get this stuff than it does to sit in a pod and just say well i'm cool, i'm gonna watch tv. I have to say that I have had people compliment several of you, to me, because of these courses. There have been several officers that have said that they can not believe the turn around and I hope that everyone knows that. Maybe they don't say it, but they tell us. So the pat on the back may come from me, but people notice, they do notice when you do well."

Following the ceremony, the graduates were treated to some refreshments.

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