West Boylston – Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis recently celebrated his 100th day in office. Upon his election he pledged to redefine the mission of the Sheriff’s Department.
One of the first things the new Sheriff did was to remove the previous Sheriff’s name from all Department vehicles at no cost to tax-payers with inmate labor. As promised, he has not added his own name to the vehicles. The Sheriff firmly believes that the focus should be on the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department and the work they do, and not any individual.
Evangelidis promised to remove politics from the department and on day one put the wheels in motion. “There is no better way to change the culture of politics than to remove money from the employment equation. I’ve broken a long standing tradition by announcing that I will accept no campaign contributions from employees or from their spouses.” He has also prohibited the acceptance of applicant support letters from elected officials.
The Sheriff has also made significant changes to the hiring standards in order to professionalize the department. All Correctional Officer applicants must have, at minimum, an Associate’s Degree or at least two years of military service. Individuals applying for positions with the Sheriff’s Department will also take both a written exam and a psychological screening test. Additionally there have been some personnel changes in order to avoid redundancy, combine responsibility and improve efficiency. Through the consolidation of Human Resources positions, elimination of two Executive Assistant and two Community Relations jobs, the combination of Community Service Deputy assignments, and the replacement of General Counsel the Sheriff’s Office is already saving over $400,000 per year.
Following through with another promise Sheriff Evangelidis has increased the size of the inmate Community Service Program. The program not only saves Worcester County’s communities thousands of dollars during tough fiscal times but provides inmates with a feeling of productivity. The work release crews are made up of non-violent, non-sex offender individuals, close to the end of their sentence, who have earned their place in the program. “As a former legislator I understand the needs of local towns, this program is a win-win for communities and for the Sheriff’s department,” Sheriff Evangelidis said, “Inmates benefit from a sense of dignity and accomplishment while the community is able to accomplish projects at little to no-cost.” This year, to date, inmate work has saved local cities and towns close to half a million dollars.
One of Evangelidis’ primary goals is to focus on inmate rehabilitation in order to reduce recidivism and make our communities safer. The Worcester County Jail and House of Corrections houses over one thousand inmates, of those 85 to 90 percent are addicted to drugs or alcohol. The Sheriff plans to implement safer detoxification programs, strengthen substance abuse counseling, life skills training, and post incarceration transition. “We’re working with leaders in the community to release inmates who are more likely to be productive members of society, which means our communities will be a safer place to live.”
Sheriff Evangelidis has been focused on bringing successful crime preventative programs into Worcester County. The Sheriff introduced the Face2Face drug prevention program at Trottier Middle School’s Career Day in Southborough. The program was donated by individuals and businesses who are dedicated to the county’s youth. It is a computerized program that simulates the effects of drugs on a user over time. Over 600 sixth, seventh, and eighth graders were able to see the potential impact of drug abuse on some of their own classmates. “As a father I know how concerned young people are with their appearance. This program can show them the shocking effect bad choices can have on the way you look” the Sheriff stated. The Sheriff’s Office is working to bring this program into every school in Worcester County. “Even if one student who sees this Face2Face program thinks twice before making that bad choice to begin drug use, we will be making a difference.”
Evangelidis is currently working with the Worcester Superior Court on a video conferencing system that will allow inmate bail hearings to be conducted remotely. This will significantly reduce the number of inmates traveling to and from court each day and in turn reduce transportation and staffing expenses. Initially the system will cost $50,000, but it is expected to pay for itself several times over. The Sheriff is not only interested in the monetary savings but more importantly its ability to improve public safety; anytime inmates are transported there is a higher risk of escape and violence.
Overall the Sheriff’s priority is public safety and after only 100 days in office he is taking the necessary steps to accomplish this goal. “I am grateful to have been given this extraordinary opportunity. I look forward to getting up and going to work every day and doing what I can to make our community safer.”