Oct 18, 2016
By Patricia Roy
Community outreach officer Shawn McKenna of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, helps dish up lunch for Sterling seniors. Patricia Roy photo
About 50 senior citizens were treated to lunch at the Sterling Senior Center last week by the office of Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis.
Community outreach officer Shawn McKenna spoke with seniors about programs for all ages performed by the Sheriff ’s office, then helped serve up spaghetti and meatballs followed by cake to the crowd.
Programs of particular interest to seniors include the IRIS Recognition program that uses biometric recognition technology to positively identify missing children and elderly persons.
A member of the Sheriff ’s office captures a high resolution digital photograph of the subject’s eye in addition to collecting other information.
The photo and data is then uploaded to a national database so it is available to law enforcement in the event of an emergency.
McKenna said that along with Project Lifesaver, the IRIS Recognition program can be an important piece of identification for elderly who have dementia or other mental impairments who may easily get lost or wander away from home. Project Lifesaver provides a bracelet that emits a radio wave signal when activated.
It’s a good program for Alzheimer patients or developmentally disabled persons, McKenna said.
A house numbering program is also available for people who don’t have a clearly marked street number on their home.
The numbers are crucial to helping emergency personnel find a house when responding to a call, McKenna said. The Sheriff ’s office can provide a custom wooden sign with the house number that can be placed on the house or at the end of a driveway.
The File of Life program was explained and distributed to the seniors on hand. It’s an emergency information card that comes in a red case where people can list their contacts and medical data like conditions, prescriptions, blood type, allergies and physician name and number.
The Sheriff ’s K-9 services have been profiled on national television, including one dog that came from the Sterling Animal Shelter. The dogs are also used in missing person searches and for drug detection in public buildings.
The Inmate Community Service Program has inmate work crews complete projects in community owned buildings like Butterick Municipal Building, providing free labor for Worcester County towns and benefitting inmates who are close to their release date.
Scared Straight and Face2Face are two youth oriented programs, McKenna said. The first takes at risk youth on a tour of the correctional facility for a look at what life is like behind bars. A hand-picked group of inmates share their stories. The Face2Face program is an multi-media anti-drug program that Sheriff Evangelidis has taken to schools in the area, including Wachusett Regional High School.
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.”