Inmates get things done in Hopedale, other towns

The Milford Daily News
By Jessica Trufant

Some unlikely community servants have come to the rescue of the school Facilities Manager Thomas Hammann, saving him thousands of dollars and countless hours of manpower.

Half a dozen Worcester County House of Correction inmates on a journey from criminal offenders to civic-minded citizens last week stopped at Hopedale Junior/Senior High School.

The non-violent offenders plastered and painted throughout the school each day as part of Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis’ community service program — which has tripled in size since he took office in 2011, and saved towns in the county an estimated $2.2 million.

“For a professional painter, it would cost us $3,000 to $5,000, but it’s $50 or $60 a day for these guys to come in. We just feed them lunch,” said Hammann, who estimated the program has saved the town up to $50,000 during the past five years. “This work would be a luxury. It wouldn’t get done, and I would let it deteriorate. It lets us get other things done. I depend on this program.”

Evangelidis visited the school to see how the painting was coming along.

He said about 25 inmates who are trustworthy non-sex offenders nearing the end of their sentence participate in the program.

“The inmates feel dignity and self worth, and by participating in this program they’re less likely to re-offend, so everyone wins. It’s a great program,” he said.

The program makes a lot of sense from an educator’s standpoint, according to Principal Derek Atherton, as it provides the inmates with job training.

“It’s great to see them working. They’re learning a skill, and it gets them moving in the right direction,” said Atherton. “Their attitude is great.”

A benefit of the program, Evangelidis said, is that it provides for basic maintenance that otherwise would not get done — since paint jobs and other repairs often take a backseat to necessary work.

“I hear that it’s not just the money, but the work just wouldn’t get done,” he said

The inmates work at various public facilities, but only visit schools when students are on vacation.

The program will return to Hopedale in August, and again in February, as Hammann has a list of projects he would like to see completed.

Selectman Robert Burns said the inmates last year painted the first floor offices in the Town Hall.

“I think the program is fantastic, and we use it as much as we can,” Burns said. “Whenever there’s painting to be done, the first thing we do is call the sheriff’s office.”

The inmates recently worked at the housing authority and senior center in Upton, saving the town about $14,000, and at Milford’s library, council on aging and board of health buildings, conserving about $19,000.

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