Inmate Matthew McCourt, left, listens as Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis visits a Community Service Program work site at Milford Town Hall Wednesday. Daily News staff Photo/Ken McGagh
By James Sheridan
Daily News Correspondent
Posted May. 29, 2014
MILFORD – A group of uniformed men sat around a table at Town Hall Wednesday morning. The room could hold a few hundred people, but only five sat around the small plastic table set up for lunch.
As they ate, the men joked about their bosses and the series of jobs they recently completed.
However, unlike other groups of co-workers, the men are inmates at the Worcester County House of Corrections and their boss is Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis.
On Wednesday, the four-man crew and a corrections officer came to Milford to lay down mulch at Town Hall, the Senior Center and the Police Station and clean the buildings’ facades. They expect to be in town through Friday.
The crew was requested by Town Administrator Richard Villani, whose only charge for their services was buying lunch. According to the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, the program, utilized nine times since 2011, has saved Milford nearly $31,000 in hourly wages.
This crew, one of four, is part of the inmate Community Service Program at Worcester County’s House of Corrections. The program, according to Evangelidis, is “a win-win,” because it saves towns and community organizations money while providing the inmates an opportunity to work and learn skills that can be used upon their release from prison.
Evangelidis, who accomplanied the crew to town, said he is “very proud of these inmates,” because they have earned the right to participate in work crews and “are turning their lives around.”
Andy Gemme, one of the inmates working in Milford this week, said communities are grateful for the work the inmates complete, as many of their jobs are for churches, community centers and town halls.
Corrections Officer Mike Brennen, of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, accompanied the crew and said every inmate who wishes to enter the program is first interviewed by the classification board before being accepted.
Brennen said only inmates who have committed non-violent crimes are accepted.
Jordan Peterson, another of the workers, added that only inmates with “community-friendly crimes,” are eligible for the program.
Peterson, the crew’s newest member, was only on his second day of work, but said the program is one of the best to help rehabilitate inmates.
For Matt McCourt, another crew member, the program has helped him establish a routine that will help him stay away from drugs after he is released. “For me,” he said, “drugs were part of the equation that landed me here.”
McCourt added that for some in the program, the work represents the first time they have held a job, which leads to a schedule that consists of more than waking up and figuring out where to get their next fix.
Inmates, he said, learn marketable skills and it leads them to think, “Hey! I could do this when I get out … instead of drugs.”