Sep 27, 2016
Jason Ventolieri moves some squash and pumpkins so they can be transported to St. John’s in Worcester.
WEST BOYLSTON — Jason Ventolieri had never worked in agriculture before, but on Monday morning, he graced the field outside the Worcester County Jail and House of Corrections picking pumpkins and squash.
As a part of the jail’s organic farming program, Ventolieri now has the skills that are going to help him get back on his feet when his sentence ends in about two weeks.
“I never really used a tape measure, anything like that,” he said. “It gave me work ethic.”
At first it was tough not knowing how to do anything in the field, Ventolieri said, but being outside and seeing nature – like a hawk that flew above him – makes him look forward to work every morning.
With a scary but exciting release coming up soon, Ventolieri said the program is making him ready to take on the world.
“I want to go out there and work,” said the 40-year-old who grew up in Charlestown. “I feel as ready as I’ve ever been.”
Ventolieri said he learned that he can use these new agriculture skills on a job application. And through the program itself, he plans to work for a company co-owned by fellow inmate, Jamie Maddocks, after his release.
The program was abandoned for years, but has been going again for about five years under the leadership of Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis.
“Instead of being in jail all day, they get a skill,” he said. “They have a work ethic to begin with.”
Over 13 acres, the crew, with the supervision of David Kalagher, grows a selection of produce from zucchini to squash. This year, they tried green beans and potatoes for the first time.
The inmates who get to spend summer and fall mornings tending to the garden are those who exhibit the best behavior, and often those who are close to ending their sentences.
Together, they collect about 500 pounds of vegetables per day, some of which goes to the jail kitchen, and the rest gets distributed to food pantries and organizations across Worcester County, including St. John’s Church Food for the Poor Program. Annually, they distribute 20,000 pounds of food.
The jail already owned the land and equipment, so the only costs are seed and fertilizer, which run total about $700. Growing vegetables to feed the inmates saves about $20,000 in food costs, according to spokeswoman Kimberly Roy, and also gives them a fresh alternative to canned food.
For the inmates who get to work out in the field, it means more than just an escape from the jail walls. This season, 12 inmates are in the program, which will produce vegetables until mid-October.
“The fresh air, the peace and atmosphere, it’s nice,” said James Gauthier. “I feel like I can prove myself to be a contributing member of society.”
Evangelidis said the program is part of a three-prong approach that the jail uses to make sure inmates will leave with a path that won’t lead them to wind up back behind bars. They make sure the inmates are set up with any services or rehab programs they may need, have a place to live, and are on their way to a new job.
“When you’ve get all those things together… the less likely it is they’re going to come back,” he said. “These are the guys that are on their way. They’ve proven themselves in here.”
Kalagher, who retired in June but has stayed on to oversee the program said the older inmates are often the ones drawn to the opportunity. Working in agriculture involves a lot of patience.
“It’s hard work. It’s 90 degrees sometimes, you have to to stay up with the weeds,” he said.
The garden itself brings the land full-circle. In the 1800s, the acres the jail sits on were a farm. The soil there is naturally good for agriculture.
Fresh food isn’t the only thing blooming on site. The crew has just about finished building a greenhouse that will be dedicated to producing tomatoes, peppers, and flowers. Inmates painted wooden beams inside the greenhouse on Monday, which was mostly constructed with materials that were recycled on site.
Sep 6, 2016
Sunday, August 07, 2016
GoLocalWorcester News Team
Dowd started his career with the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department in December of 1998, was promoted to Sergeant in 2007, Lieutenant in January 2014 and most recently to Captain, effective July 15 , 2016.
Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis announced on Friday that he has promoted 3 Lieutenants to the rank of Captain including Lt. Dennis Dowd of Worcester.
“As we continue to build a strong department dedicated to serving our community, I am very proud to announce the promotion of Dennis Dowd as well as the other two Lieutenants to the rank of Captain. The field of corrections is a difficult one, I have a great deal of confidence in our new captains and I know they will continue to work hard to make us a better department ” said Evangelidis.
Dowd, an 18 year veteran at the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office most recently served as a Lieutenant of Line Operations and previously served as a Sergeant in receiving.
As a Captain of line operations, Dowd will be responsible for commanding and supervising correctional officers and staff under his charge as well as monitoring the care, custody and control of inmate activity ensuring the safety of both staff and inmates.
Sep 6, 2016
Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis is warning residents about a recent phone scam in which the caller tells victims that they have an arrest warrant in their name. The caller tells the individual that in order to avoid going to jail that they need to pay a fine. Unlike previous scams which involved claims of missed jury duty, the current scam does not exactly say what the warrant is for but the caller fraudulently uses the Sheriff ’s Office name and/ or number.
The sheriff ’s office has now received numerous reports of this type of phone scam. In some cases, the scammer identifies himself as Officer Paul Gibbs of the Worcester County Sheriff ’s Office and then asks for money to clear up the warrant. This individual is not employed by the Worcester County Sheriff ’s Department. The Worcester County Sheriff ’s Office encourages people to be aware of calls like this and to never give personal or financial information over the phone to anyone whom you didn’t call yourself.
“Our department does not contact residents and demand payment or ask for credit card information. Today’s scam artists are always trying to stay ahead of the curve, residents need to beware of any unsolicited calls that ask for their personal or credit card information,” said the Sheriff. “These callers can sound convincing, will be aggressive and try to intimidate you, even threaten you with jail time. We encourage anyone who gets a suspicious call to just hang up or call authorities first before giving out any type of personal information or money.”
Sep 6, 2016
The Community Advocate
Tuesday, September 1st, 2015
By: The Community Advocate Staff
Shrewsbury – After attending the annual senior citizens picnic hosted by Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis on Aug.15, Shrewsbury resident Ruth Cohen wrote this poem as a way to say “thank you.”
The Sheriff’s Annual Citizen Picnic
By Ruth Cohen
Thank you Sheriff Evangelidis. Once again you found a way
To provide for us seniors a fun filled day.
August fifteenth, 2015,
SAC Park in Shrewsbury was the scene.
It was fun for the members of my family.
My son Steve, his wife Bela, her mother Riva and me.
We started with watermelon, luscious and sweet.
Then sandwiches and chips to continue the treat.
After we ate, Bingo cards were given to all.
We listened and entered numbers they did call.
At one point we heard Bela’s voice very loud.
As she struggled to be heard above the crowd.
“Bingo!” she screamed. They checked to see
If she marked the card accurately.
She was one of three players to win that pot.
Thirty four dollars was what each got.
After the Bingo playing was done,
There were lottery prizes that people won.
Now the day was over, so off we went
With big smiles on our faces for the delightful day we spent.
Now, Sheriff Evangelidis, we are so pleased to say,
Thanks once again for a fun filled day.