The Webster Patriot
By Steev Riccardo
The Town of Oxford’s Tercentennial Committee made good use of Sheriff Lew Evangelidis inmate work program by utilizing its inmates on Monday to help clean up after the huge parade that took place on Sunday.
A crew of six inmates led by officer Jason Firmin worked alongside Oxford tercentennial committee co-chairman Alan Hammond and cleaned up Joslin Park as well as the entire route of the tercentennial parade, saving the town of Oxford a lot of money.
“About a month and a half ago, we realized that we were going to have a budget item that we hadn’t planned for, and that was cleaning up afterwards,” said Hammond.
This dilemma prompted Hammond and co-chairman Mike Voas to reach out to Evangelidis about the program and soon found out that it was the answer to their problem.
The Inmate Work Program, which has tripled since Evangelidis was elected as Sheriff a year-and-a- half ago, has been a model of success for many communities in Worcester County.
“We come out into the community and we have done over two million dollars worth of work since I have been Sheriff,” said Evangelidis. “We have four crews out every single day; they average between four and six guys per crew and they go into a community anywhere they are needed.”
“Any group that is a non-profit can simply send a letter to us and we will send a lieutenant out to look over the program and see if it fits our criteria, and if does, we will send the crew out. It’s an amazingly positive program.”
“These are our best inmates. They are non- violent, non- sex offenders, most getting to the end of their sentence and they feel the dignity and self respect of a day’s work and I can tell you that for a fact, when they get out they are less likely to repeat-offend more than any other inmates we have.”
Hammond saw first hand what the program and the inmates were like to work with. “I worked with these guys myself this morning and it was very enjoyable, walking side by side with a few of them and sharing stories and listening to what they had to say, and I actually agree with the sheriff, I don’t think these guys are going to be coming back to the county jail.” They did an amazing job and saved us thousands of dollars,” said Hammond.
“I want to commend the sheriff,” said Voas, “I think it’s an absolutely fantastic program, it’s definitely a public service. The DPW guys could go out and do other things that need to be done while these guys cleaned the streets for us.”
Firmin, who is in his 10th year working for corrections, has not had any problems with the inmates and enjoys being out of the jail. “The inmates have been very respectful, I have never had a problem with these guys. It’s nice to be productive with society seeing the inmates help out the community.”
One of the inmates, Robert Leonard, was thankful for the opportunity as well. “It gets us out for the day, better food than the jail food, fresh air, it’s nice to get away, and back to nature. It’s good to give back to the community, it’s nice all around.”
Fifty-three out of the 60 towns in Worcester County have utilized the Inmate Work Program and Evangelidis has plenty of reason to be pleased with the results because the program is flourishing.