Newspaper

Feb 3, 2015

Inmates Help Uncover Leominster Sidewalks

Inmates Help Uncover Leominster Sidewalks

01/29/2015

LEOMINSTER — In the wake of this week’s snow storm, Leominster officials and residents got help with their shoveling from an unexpected source — the nearby prison. 

On Wednesday morning, nearly a dozen inmates showed up in downtown Leominster ready to help the town with snow removal as part of Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis’ inmate work program. 

The work program, which existed before Evangelidis but tripled in size when he took office in 2011, allows select inmates at the Worcester County Jail and House of Corrections to do manual labor for local communities and nonprofits. The inmates in the program are all nonviolent offenders who have been pre-screened and are supervised while working. 

“Only our best inmates are part of the program,” Evangelidis said.

Kim Roy, the sheriff’s director of external affairs, explained that crews with three to five men go to a specific job every day, but this snowstorm was an exception.

“We have four inmate work crews out five days a week, and that’s ongoing throughout the year,” Roy said. “But when Mother Nature hits, the sheriff always makes the top priority to avail the work crews to help the municipalities dig out.” 

Roy said two of the four work crews were sent to Worcester today. The other two crews went to Leominster.

“We get in this morning and we’re shoveling away, and all of a sudden the sheriff’s van shows up,” said Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella.

“We had over 30 inches of snow, and what a relief to see them.” 

Over the course of the day, the inmates helped to clear several areas downtown, including bus stops, sidewalks, the courthouse steps and parking meters. 

“The trucks can’t get everything, so these guys were able to go behind them and sort of clean up after,” said Mazzarella. 

He said he was very grateful for their help. 

“We thank the sheriff for automatically knowing that we could use the help,” Mazzarella said. “They worked hard. I don’t think they stopped for a minute. They were certainly providing a good public service.” 

Evangelidis said he believes strongly that the work program is in the best interest of all parties. 

“It all contributes to the idea of public safety,” he said. “Communities get to save money, and the inmates gain a sense of self-worth.”

Feb 3, 2015

Inmates help Worcester, Leominster dig out

Inmates help Worcester, Leominster dig out

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Jeffrey Leger of Gardner, right, and other inmates from the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction dig a path to the Green Island Neighborhood Center at Crompton Park in Worcester on Wednesday (T&G Staff/PAUL KAPTEYN)

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From left, Jamie Cote of Grafton, Anthony LaMarche of Worcester and James Ohop of Southbridge, along with other inmates from the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction, dig a path to the Green Island Neighborhood Center at Crompton Park in Worcester on Wednesday. (T&G Staff/PAUL KAPTEYN)

Inmates from the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction in West Boylston helped the cities of Worcester and Leominster dig out from under more than 2 feet of snow Wednesday.

About a dozen inmates who are participants in Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis’ Community Service Program spent the morning shoveling out Leominster City Hall, the Leominster District Court building, parking meters in the city and the area of the Common, according to Kimberly Roy, director of external affairs for the sheriff’s office.

In the afternoon, work crews from the program were shoveling snow at Crompton Park in Worcester.

The community service program provides cost-free labor by minimum-security inmates who have been convicted of a nonviolent and non-sexual offense and are within six months of completing their sentence. The inmates are monitored at all times by an armed officer.

“It benefits the communities, as well as the inmates,” Ms. Roy said of the program. Cities and towns save money on labor costs, according to Ms. Roy.

“And it gives the inmates a sense of giving back to the community and helps them with re-entry, as well. It’s the ultimate win-win,” she said.

“We had over 30 inches of snow, and what a relief to see them,” Leominster Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella said of the inmates who helped out. “We thank the sheriff for automatically knowing that we could use the help. The prisoners worked hard all day and made a huge improvement.”

Ms. Roy said Sheriff Evangelidis makes the needs of area communities a top priority of his community service program whenever a major storm strikes.

State courts in all but Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties were closed for a second day Wednesday because of the storm. State courts across Massachusetts were shut down Tuesday and only those in the four western counties, which were less affected by the storm, reopened Wednesday.

Feb 3, 2015

Sheriff Evangelidis Tells Tantasqua Students About Opioid Dangers

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

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Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis recently

presented his Face2Face Drug & Alcohol Prevention Program

to the 8th grade students at Tantasqua Regional Jr. High School.

STURBRIDGE — It is a sobering statistic that almost 90 percent of the inmates at the Worcester County Jail & House of Correction are incarcerated due to addiction issues. According to Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, if you ask any inmate today, most of them will tell you the same message: “I wish I could go back to middle and high school and make different choices with drugs and alcohol.”

On Jan 13, the sheriff brought exactly that message, along with footage from inside the jail, to the eighth grade students of Tantasqua Regional Jr. High School in Sturbridge, as part of his unique Face2Face drug & alcohol prevention program.

Since taking office in January of 2011, Sheriff Evangelidis has been on a mission with the county’s youth, having personally presented his Face2Face Program to over 125,000 students from across the region, and the sheriff shows no signs of letting up. With prescription drug and opioid use among teens at an all-time high, the sheriff has made sure to keep up with the newer drug trends in his Face2Face presentation.

Heavily concentrating his message on the perils of prescription opioid use with the students, Sheriff Evangelidis tells them it can often lead a person “down a dark path” to using harder drugs like heroin.

As the sheriff explains “No one tells you when they sell you that first pill that six months later you could end up with a needle in your arm,” in reference to the costly amount per milligram of prescription pills versus the fraction of the cost on the street for a bag of heroin that offers a comparable high.

Added to the presentation are newer trendy drugs such as Molly, commonly referred to as a “pure” form of the drug MDMA (ecstasy). Its recent spike in use among young people has resulted in scores of emergency room visits and deaths in teens and college students who take the drug while attendingclub shows and rave concerts.

Sheriff Evangelidis makes sure in his Face2Face presentation not to sugar-coat the drug with the sweet sounding name. The students are shown pictures of filthy drug labs where Molly is made, as well as hearing the myths and facts of its use directly from the sheriff as he reminds them, “there is no such thing as a safe or pure form of Molly.” 

Jan 30, 2015

Worcester Sheriff Gets Grant to Help Inmates

Worcester Sheriff Gets Grant to Help Inmates

Saturday, January 24, 2015

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Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis talks about the Second Chance Act grant award.

 

By Samantha Allen TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF

WEST BOYLSTON — The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office accepted what officials say is the largest federal grant award they’ve ever received, with a plan to use nearly $750,000 to better inmates during their time behind bars.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded a Second Chance Act “Enhanced Re-entry Program” grant to the sheriff’s office totaling $749,924 to improve the facility’s programs for re-entry into the community. The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts will donate $375,000 toward a match required by the grant. The sheriff’s office has pledged $421,580 as well, bringing the total to more than $1.5 million. The Worcester County office was one of seven to receive the federal Second Chance award nationwide.

Officials say that in Worcester County, nearly 50 percent of offenders return to prison within three years of their release. According to researchers at Brandeis University, the Worcester County House of Correction is “on par” with other facilities in the state, with a recidivism rate of 40 percent from 2011 to 2013, according to Brandeis University’s Mary Brolin. That means in those years, an average of two out of five inmates returned to the jail.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance has partnered with Brandeis to study the implementation of these programs, according to the sheriff’s office, “to ensure the most effective use of taxpayer dollars as well as their efficacy and outcomes.”

Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis said Friday the solution to bettering society isn’t keeping prisoners for long periods of time. He said an improved program like this will help the county overall.

“Warehousing inmates doesn’t work,” he said. “We have people we need to put in prison …We have to be tough on crime, but we have to understand we have to be smart on crime, too.”

Sheriff Evangelidis said rehabilitation is necessary to help troubled people stay out of jail, but also to keep costs down for taxpayers. He said a person charged with breaking and entering can cost the system hundreds of thousands of dollars in police investigation time and resources expended through court, too.

Rebecca Pellegrino, special sheriff with Sheriff Evangelidis’ office, congratulated him on the grant Friday afternoon in the presence of U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, as well as Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.

“(The sheriff) has remained consistent to his pledge to make sure that every inmate who enters this facility is a better person when they leave,” Ms. Pellegrino said.

Donald Siergie, the sheriff’s office’s director of re-entry and reintegration, said in his mind, re-entry begins at “day one” at the West Boylston-based jail.

“We know this. We practice this model to some degree,” he said. “With the advent of these additional funds, this is going to get us to the next generation of re-entry here at the Worcester County House of Correction.”

Mr. Siergie said an average of 6,000 people come through the facility each year, though a majority of those inmates are pretrial detainees who will likely stay a short period of time.

“We need to focus on the people who will be here for 60 days to 2½ years,” he said.

With this money, a new orientation unit will be created called “the new man unit,” which will help assess inmates, as well as their mental health needs, when they come to the West Boylston site. That will lead, Mr. Siergie said, to the development of individualized plans.

In addition, a “Wiser Men” program will assist a minimum of 75 and as many as 100 sentenced male inmates with a medium to high risk of re-offending. The goal with those men will be to reduce recidivism by 50 percent in five years.

Those inmates will have pre-release services available to them including substance abuse treatment, vocational training, cognitive behavioral therapy, mental health counseling, and anger management and education services. Post-release services will involve care management to assist with housing, employment, access to health care, and addiction recovery for up to 12 months through Advocates Inc.

Mr. McGovern joked that perhaps members of Congress would benefit from programs like these to make them “wiser.” He said the program was important, especially considering how much money goes toward incarcerating criminals.

“State spending on corrections has skyrocketed from $12 billion in 1988 to more than $50 billion in 2011,” he said. “At a time when budgets are tight, we should look for innovative ways to cut those costs.”

Mr. Early called this grant an example of “good government.”

“(Getting $750,000) is not an easy thing to do,” he said. “The answer isn’t building bigger jails. No. It’s getting smart on crime, doing the right things, and this grant will do just that.”

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