PowerPlayer: Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis

GoLocalWorcester.com

Two years into the job, Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis answers GoLocal’s questions from what he’s doing to keep troubled teens out of jail to lighter questions like his favorite book.

What are you doing with inmates to make sure they don’t end up back in jail?

Inmates are offered a disciplined approach to obtain their GED, continue their education, learn a job skill or earn a certification that will help them get a job once they are released. We also provide detoxification programs as well as substance abuse counseling.

I have also doubled the size of the inmate work program, which is made up of supervised non-violent offenders who are close to the end of their sentence and have earned their way into the program. These inmates provide free labor to our community while gaining a feeling of self-worth and dignity through a days work. These inmates are often our least likely to become repeat offenders.

What is being done to help teenagers so they don’t end up in jail?

The most startling fact of incarceration is that 85 to 90 % of our inmates are in jail because of alcohol and drug addictions. With that in mind, I have been presenting the Face2Face Program, which our office created, to over 6,000 Middle School and High School students throughout Worcester County. The program uses special computer software to simulate the effects substance abuse can have on a person’s appearance over time, it gives students a firsthand look at the devastating impact drug use can have on the appearance of their own classmates.

In addition to the Face2Face Program the Sheriff’s Office offers our own version of the, well-known, Scared Straight Program. Escorted by a Correctional Officer, at risk youth are given a tour of the facility and an up close look at what life is like behind bars. The tour finishes with a presentation by a hand-picked group of inmates, who share their stories on how poor choices led them to incarceration.

How are you dealing with the drug and alcohol problems in Worcester County?

In addition the preventative programs I am bringing to Worcester County’s Youth. The Sheriff’s Office offers safe, medical detoxification to all inmates who enter the facility addicted to drugs and alcohol. Following detoxification inmates are able to take advantage of substance abuse counseling as well as other educational and vocational offerings. The Worcester County House of Correction’s STOP (Substance Treatment Opportunity Program) is a highly structured program where enrolled inmates attend classes, meetings, individual counseling sessions, reintegration services, victim impact discussions, as well as parenting and health classes.

What have you learned from Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe that you hope to incorporate into your system?

Sheriff Ashe has been my mentor since I decided to run for Sheriff and he has truly earned his reputation as an innovator. Following his lead, I focused on reducing recidivism through strengthening inmate substance abuse programs, educational programs, job skills, as well as reintegration services making sure inmates being released have both a place to live and employment.

What have been some of your biggest accomplishments since you became sheriff?

Upon my election I pledged to remove politics from the department and increase professionalism. Following the removal of the Sheriff’s name from every department vehicle, I immediately implemented a policy to refuse any campaign donations from employees or their spouses. Additionally, we advertise all open positions publically, allowing everyone an opportunity to apply. I increased the hiring standards for all Correctional Officers in order to professionalize the department. I have also expanded the Community Service Program, which saved Worcester County tax-payers 1.4 million dollars in 2011.

What do you see as your biggest obstacles?

The difficult economy leads to increased drug and alcohol abuse which directly leads to increased crime in our community. Our facility has a federal consent decree maximizing our population at 1251 inmates, it is a constant challenge to keep our numbers in compliance.

Role Model: My Grandfather, Carl Olson

Favorite Restaurant: Wright’s Chicken Farm

Best Beach: Coastguard Beach- Eastham, MA

Best Book You’ve Read in the Last Year: Unbroken – Laura Hillebrand