By Aram Arkun
BOSTON — Peter Koutoujian is one of the best known Armenian politicians in Massachusetts, and appears more and more as a spokesman for Armenians on a national level. He has been playing an important role in the field of law enforcement as sheriff of Middlesex County, and is often involved in policy discussions statewide. In a recent interview, Koutoujian spoke about some key aspects of his work.
At the core of his job is the care, custody and control of pre-trial detainees and inmates sentenced for comparatively short terms from the 12 district courts of Middlesex County, as well as the preparation for their re-entry into society. On average there are approximately 500-600 of each group. Koutoujian said that people end up in his facilities due to a myriad of reasons that lead to criminality, including substance abuse and addiction, mental health issues, educational failures, joblessness, homelessness and the wrong social networks. He said, “We take people off the street and hold them securely, protecting society from them, but protecting themselves as well. When they come to us we have a unique opportunity to take stock of what led to their criminality and design a plan while they are staying with us to address those causes.”
On the Middlesex sheriff’s website, Koutoujian explains to the public his preferred approach: “If we give inmates the chance to develop a skill or increase their education level, they will have previously non-existent tools to help them get a job, pay their debts, earn a living and cultivate the self-esteem and pride to be productive citizens.”
He explained that he felt that while there is a certain amount of retribution that must be exacted, and there are bad people who need to be kept in jail as long as possible, but that there is much more that should be done for inmates which will reduce the odds that they will engage in criminal activity once more. He said, “The issue of corrections has turned 180 degrees from the 1980s. The lessons of the 1980s showed that simply throwing people into jail does not work — we cannot incarcerate our way out of crime, or reduce crime through incarceration.”