As an undergraduate majoring in criminology at Barry University, James Reyes’ strong interest in social issues was sparked when he learned about the high crime rate that exists among those who do not finish high school or attend college. Today, 15 years later, Reyes is putting his passion into practice as a captain with the Broward Sheriff’s Office, where he serves as the facility commander for the Joseph V. Conte Facility and advocates for degree-seeking programs for those in custody.
As the facility commander for the Joseph V. Conte Facility, Reyes oversees the facility, its $22 million-dollar budget, its more than 230 staff members and its more than 1,300 inmates. With the support of other areas of Broward County’s criminal justice system, the facility offers inmates the opportunity to participate in substance-abuse programs and educational opportunities, such as Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) preparation and GED preparation.
Reyes’ goal for the facility is to provide offenders with as many tools and resources as possible in order for them to successfully re-integrate back into society and, therefore, reduce recidivism, he said. In addition, Reyes and his staff work alongside government agencies and community organizations to provide educational and career-developing tours to children from local Boys & Girls Clubs with the hopes of discouraging them from taking part in criminal activity while also introducing them to careers in law enforcement.
“The most rewarding part of my career is having the opportunity to have a positive impact in the community I serve,” Reyes said. “Identifying a social issue is one thing; being in a position to address that social issue is the most rewarding part of my career.”
Reyes, who graduated from Barry with a bachelor’s degree in criminology in 1999, said his time in Barry’s Department of Sociology and Criminology made him aware of several social issues, some of which he would later encounter in his career.
“Barry faculty offered solutions and challenged and motivated their students to make a difference in their respective communities,” Reyes said. “They gave us examples of successful grassroots projects that produced solutions for an array of social issues at the local-community level. As a result, their practices instilled in me a high level of social awareness and social consciousness that has been a part of me ever since.”
Reyes started his career with the Broward Sheriff’s Office in 2000 as a deputy sheriff for the BSO’s Main Jail and North Broward Bureau, where he served as a member of the Crisis Intervention Team in the Mental Health Unit; he also served as a field-training deputy and a mental-health program deputy. In 2006, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant and was assigned to the Mental Health Unit at the North Broward Bureau. In 2011, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and was assigned as the alpha shift commander at the Main Jail. Two years later, he was promoted, again, to the rank of captain and was assigned as the facility commander for the Joseph V. Conte Facility.
“I have had an incredibly positive experience working for the Broward Sheriff’s Office,” Reyes said. “I could not ask for better people to work alongside on a day-to-day basis. Importantly, I get to serve the same community I live in.”
Reyes, who graduated from Nova Southeastern University’s Executive Leadership Certificate Program in 2012, is earning a master’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Cincinnati and, upon earning his degree, hopes to teach at the college level.
“Since graduating from Barry, I have always had a passion to teach at the college level,” Reyes said. “Now that I have professional experience to add to my education, I am eager to pass that knowledge along to others who aspire to work in the criminal justice field.”
Reyes credits his dedication to his career and his motivation to better the lives of others to his time at Barry and the professors who shared the same mission for social awareness and justice, he said.
“Without the knowledge and passion I was exposed to while at Barry, I would have never been able to be as successful in my career as I have been,” Reyes said. “The social awareness and knowledge shared by the faculty at Barry instilled the passion that still drives me today.”
For more information about degree programs offered by Barry’s Department of Sociology and Criminology, visit http://www.barry.edu/sociology-criminology/