Second Chances

Worcester County Sheriff Given Grant to Prevent Recidivism 

Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis speaks to an audience at the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office about the Second Chance Grant. Kimberly Petalas photo.

Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis speaks to an audience at the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office about the Second Chance Grant.

Being “smart on crime” in order to lower recidivism rates has earned the Worcester County Sheriff ’s Department a $750,000 Second Chance Grant from the Federal Bureau of Justice, the largest grant of its kind in department history.

The grant will allow the department to create a re-entry process for every inmate, preparing them to enter back into their community with a less likely chance to commit another crime.

This means the potential for less crime in Wachusett area towns.

“This grant will start re-entry on day one,” said Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis. “When people walk in here, we are going to be working from day one to make sure we get the chance to turn their lives around. This is the grant that is going to allow us to do that. We need a better assessment process than the way we have it now and this grant is going to allow us to do that.”

In the state, nearly 50 percent of offenders return to prison within three years of their release. High recidivism rates have been the driving force behind many of Sheriff Evangelidis’ programs since taking office.

“We understand that we can be tough on crime, but we have to be smart on crime,” said the Sheriff. “The partnerships we are forming are about being smart on crime.”

In addition to the federal grant, the department received a $375,000 matching grant from The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, along with just under $422,000 from the Worcester County Sheriff ’s Department, creating a program with around $1.5 million in funding.

Congressman Jim McGovern, D-MA, said he has no doubt that this program will be successful for Worcester County.

“Through a vision and a belief that people deserve a second chance, (Evangelidis) helped spearhead this whole initiative,” he said. “We all want to say that people deserve a second chance, but we very rarely, as a community, deliver on that, and there are a lot of things we need to do, and this is part of it.”

McGovern said that in addition to the job training, mental health services and substance abuse treatment that Sheriff Evangelidis’ office provides to inmates, he believes that working with each inmate from day one to reintegrate them back into the community will help prevent further crime.

“We talked about the cost of putting somebody in jail and going through the whole legal process,” said McGovern. “It’s very, very expensive. State spending in corrections has sky rocketed from $12 million in 1988 to more than $50 billion in 2011. At a time when budgets are tight, it’s important to look for innovative ways to cut those costs. It makes no sense to house somebody in jail for a long time just for them to come back. Evangelidis is leading the way. I think its going to be model for others across the state.”

District Attorney Joseph Early said this grant is about doing the right thing.

“The answer isn’t building bigger jails. No. It’s getting smart on crime and doing the right things” he said. “This grant will do just that. Doing the right things and working and attacking recidivism at its core. Education, mental health, attacking drugs and alcohol, giving people a chance to give back to the community…it’s just good government.”

Evangelidis said his goal is to reduce recidivism by 50 percent in just five years with this program.