Athol Daily News – 8/31/2013
|WORCESTER — In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, including Worcester County, nearly 40 percent of offenders return to prison within three years of their release. Many offenders re-enter society with few resources and little direction, a scenario which often leads to the commission of new crimes and a revolving door in and out of incarceration. The impact on public safety and public health is enormous. According to the Massachusetts Department of Correction, the annual cost to house an inmate in the state is nearly $46,000.
In response to this sobering and very costly incarceration statistic and with the goal of improving public safety and reducing recidivism, Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis is unveiling a new and innovative After Incarceration Support Services program (AISS) for all of Worcester County.The sheriff, after completing a comprehensive review of national re-entry and post release models, is also announcing the opening of the first ever After Incarceration Support Center for Worcester County, including an expanded partnership with the Worcester Initiative for Support Re-entry (WISR). The mission of the sheriff’s center as well as the expanded collaborative with WISR is to help guide former prisoners in Worcester County during the reintegration process in an effort to enhance public safety and reduce recidivism.
At the recent ribbon cutting ceremony of the new AISS center located at 340 Main St., Worcester, Evangelidis and Dr. Jan Yost, president and CEO of the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, were joined by many prominent local and state officials including Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety Andrea Cabral. Also highlighted at the ceremony was the expanded re-entry collaborative between the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office and the WISR, including its role in facilitating the AISS program which is designed to help returning post incarcerated individuals obtain housing, employment and health care services so they may become productive, tax-paying members of society.”Today’s announcement with Dr. Yost brings an exciting next step in our reintegrative work together and I am very pleased that we are introducing our new AISS program and partnering with WISR to offer substantive reentry transition services that are essential to our community,” said Evangelidis.
“With our new AISS program, WISR will connect former inmates to the support services they need so they can live independently, stay out of trouble and stay out of jail,” Evangelidis continued. “Our shared goal is to help ex-offenders successfully transition back into our communities while enhancing public safety. Providing accessible reintegrative support services is a collaborative effort that will help meet the challenges of ex-offenders reducing recidivism, making our entire community safer.”
“I am thrilled to be here with Sheriff Evangelidis today as we announce our expanded partnership and new AISS program. Inmate reentry is a societal problem not just a criminal justice problem, most individuals who are currently incarcerated are going to be released from prison at some point. It is in the community’s best interest to ensure services are available to enable these individuals to become fully-functioning members of society and avoid what has too often been a revolving prison door,” said Yost.
She added, “For these reasons, The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts is pleased to announce a $475,000 grant to Advocates, Inc. to fund WISR this year, including support for this expanded partnership with the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office.”
“WISR has been working successfully with the sheriff’s office and our other partners to help men transition back to the community, and we are thrilled that we are able to be a part of their new AISS program,” said Ken Bates, WISR’s project director and vice president of Behavioral Health at Advocates, Inc. “As we expand our collaborative work on reentry, we have an even greater opportunity to make our community safer and healthier. WISR in collaboration with the sheriff’s office, expects to provide housing and employment services to approximately 35 AISS program participants through December 2013 and will continue to provide support and initiatives to AISS moving forward as well.”
Founded in 2011, WISR is a partnership-based project currently being led by Advocates, Inc. The project harnesses the expertise of criminal justice, social service, health care, mental health, legal, housing and employment providers who have the shared goal of reducing recidivism, increasing public safety, improving public health and helping formerly incarcerated individuals become independent, working and tax-paying members of the community.
Both Evangelidis and WISR anticipate the cost of providing the new AISS program that will enable formerly incarcerated men to reintegrate back into the community as productive citizens to be less than $10,000 per person, significantly lower than the current annual incarceration cost of nearly $46,000 per inmate.
Also of note, State Sen. Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) and State Sen. Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester) on behalf of the Massachusetts Legislature presented Evangelidis with an official citation and extended their personal congratulations during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new AISS center.
“Sheriff Evangelidis has done a tremendous job brining new progressive programs to the Sheriff’s Department to address the social challenges faced by many former inmates. The new center is a wonderful initiative that will assist individuals with re-entry, provide a cost savings and ultimately help to keep our community safer.” said Chandler.