The Millbury-Sutton Chronicle
By Kevin Koczwara
Millbury’s Senior Center needed some landscaping done. Weeds were popping up in the flower beds. New mulch needed to be spread. And plants needed to be trimmed. But Judy O’Connor didn’t have anyone to get the job done because the Senior Center’s maintenance worker is only part-time – he works just 19 hours a week – and the cost of a landscaping company costs far to much for the Senior Center and the town of Millbury.
To get the needed landscaping done, O’Connor makes use of a program set up by the Sheriff’s office. In this program, the Sheriff’s office and the guards at the minimum security prison select inmates who have positive records in prison, who are non-violent, non-sex offenders, and who are close to their end of their release date to work outside in the community with an officer present. O’Connor got a team of give men to take care of her landscaping need, and all she had to do was buy them lunch.
“The inmates come out to the community and perform work, which you find this is a rare thing in government because it’s a win-win for everybody,” says Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis.
“These inmates are the best of our best. They are non-violent, non-sex offenders, and they are going to be out on the street in a matter of months anyways,” says Sheriff Evangelidis. “What they do is they earn their way into this program. Then they come out and do the work in the community that people would have to pay for. We’ve already save the community $500,000.”
For O’Connor, getting the landscaping done is “wonderful,” because the Senior Center doesn’t have the budget needed to pay for professional landscaping, which can be costly. She also sees a bigger impact from the work time for the inmates, learning a new trade and getting a chance to do something positive while in an adverse situation, especially while working at the Senior Center.
“I think they can take something away from this experience being with the elderly people because they’re also mingling with them. They come in and have coffee and pastry with them. We had coffee in the Garden Tuesday so they were all sitting here watching them work,” says O’Connor. “They are all interacting.”
Sheriff Evangelidis has worked to revamp the program and live up to his campaign promise of doubling the program to help out the community. He sees the program as a chance to get the inmates on the fringe of getting out a chance to give back and work before they go back on the streets. This is on of those rare programs where we can help someone out, save them money and rehabilitate at the same time,” says Sheriff Evangelidis.