Newspaper

Jan 30, 2015

Doing Time, Rebuilding Lives in Worcester County

Grant helps sheriff’s office launch inmate-support program

By Michael Hartwell, mhartwell@sentinelandenterprise.com

01/24/2015

FITCHBURG — The phrase of the day at Friday’s press conference in the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office was “smart on crime.” 

The sheriff’s office just received a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to help inmates re-enter society without falling back into a life of crime, the largest such grant the county has ever received. 

The Enhanced Re-entry Program grant was matched with $375,000 from The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts and $421,580 from the sheriff’s office to create a $1.5 million program. 

Speaking at the press conference, Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis said the program will get to the root of the problem by helping inmates with problems that lead them back to crime, like substance abuse and mental-health problems.

"We can be tough on crime, but we have to be smart on crime," Worcester Country Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis said during a press conference

“We can be tough on crime, but we have to be smart on crime,” Worcester Country Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis said during a press conference announcing a federal $750,000 grant to help inmates re-enter society.

“We have people that need to be put in prison, put behind bars and incarcerated,” said Evangelidis. “But we also understand that warehousing inmates doesn’t work. We understand that we can be tough on crime, but we have to be smart on crime.” 

Citing figures from the Massachusetts Department of Correction, he said it costs nearly $46,000 to house an inmate in Massachusetts for one year. No average cost of government response to a crime was given, but he said police, legal and court fees can total more than $100,000 for just one breaking and entering crime. That doesn’t include the intangible costs to society, such as the human cost, he said.

Almost half of Massachusetts offenders returning to prison within three years of their release and Evangelidis said the grant will allow them to target inmates for recidivism prevention the day they arrive. He said about 90 percent are hooked on drugs or alcohol. 

“The answer isn’t building bigger jails, No, it’s getting smart on crime,” said Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. “This grant will do just that.” 

Evangelidis and Early gave U.S. Rep.

POSITIVE STEPS: As Worcester Country Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis looks on, Worcester County inmate Jim Ohop Jr. paints the floor in a bathroom at the New

POSITIVE STEPS: As Worcester Country Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis looks on, Worcester County inmate Jim Ohop Jr. paints the floor in a bathroom at the New Patriots Veteran Outreach Center in Fitchburg on Thursday.

Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, credit for helping Worcester have one of seven sheriff’s offices in the nation to receive the grant. 

“This is a community that is tough on crime, but being tough on crime also means being smart about it,” said McGovern. “It makes absolutely no sense to house somebody in jail for a period of time only to have them leave and return. We’ve got to find new and innovative ways to do this better.” 

In an interview after the press conference, Evangelidis said instead of the mere minutes they spend evaluating incoming inmates, the re-entry program will allow them to spend days seeing what their needs are and then put them into programs designed to treat any substance-abuse problems or psychological problems.

From left, Jan Yost, president and CEO of The Health Foundation of Central Mass.; Diane Gould, president and CEO of Advocates Inc.; Worcester Country

From left, Jan Yost, president and CEO of The Health Foundation of Central Mass.; Diane Gould, president and CEO of Advocates Inc.; Worcester Country Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis; U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern; and Worcester County District Attorney. Joseph D. Early Jr. join for a photo Friday during the announcement of grant funds for inmate support.

It will also help them get education and vocational training. 

“Anything that they need, we’re going to now be able to better identify and better offer,” he said. 

Once released, the program will help them transition into community programs, as well as follow and track their progress. That will allow them to figure out what is working and where the program needs to be tweaked. 

Evangelidis said their goal is to lower recidivism by 50 percent in the next five years.

Worcester Country Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis, right, talks with New Patriots Veteran Outreach Center Co-Chairmen Earl Marshall, left, and John Lyle during

Worcester Country Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis, right,

talks with New Patriots Veteran Outreach Center Co-Chairmen Earl Marshall, left,

and John Lyle during his visit Thursday.

Jan 30, 2015

Second Chances

Second Chances

Worcester County Sheriff given grant to prevent recidivism 

2015-01-29

By Kimberly Petalas

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.

Jan 5, 2015

Sheriff Evangelidis Swears in 25 New Correction Officers

Friday, January 2, 2015

Sheriff Evangelidis swears in 25 new correction officers

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Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis with 25 new correction officers at the recent graduation ceremony held at Anna Maria College.

PAXTON — Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis recently welcomed 25 new correction officers to the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office during a graduation ceremony at Anna Maria College.

East Brookfield resident Officer Kevin Gatto and Leicester residents Officer Matthew Champagne and Officer Matthew Guinee were part of the 42nd Graduating Class of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office Basic Recruit Training Academy.

The group, which also included four military servicemen, were the seventh class to graduate under Sheriff Evangelidis’ new increased hiring standards, which he introduced shortly after taking office.

Since taking office, Evangelidis has made significant changes to the hiring standards in order to professionalize the department. All correctional officer applicants must have, at minimum, an associates degree or at least two years of military service. They must also take and pass a written exam, physical fitness test, background check and psychological screening test. Evangelidis has also implemented a policy that prohibits the acceptance of letters of recommendation from politicians, while U.S. military applicants are given priority status in the hiring process.

“Today, we welcome the 25 new recruits of the 42nd Graduating Class of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office. Our new officers have met the highest hiring standards and have completed the finest training academy in Massachusetts.” Evangelidis continued, “With over 6,200 inmates going through the jail doors each year, we look for the best individuals we can find to make our community a safer place and to ensure the public safety of our citizens. Corrections is a hard job with significant challenges; our success although difficult to quantify will be measured by the crimes that are never committed.”

During the 12-week academy, recruits are taught to handle the daily challenges of safely keeping the care, custody, and control of inmates incarcerated at the Worcester County Jail & House of Correction. Classroom topics include legal issues, mental health in a correctional setting, staff/inmate interaction, security/emergency procedures, interpersonal communication skills, and use of force regulations.

In addition, instructors use hands-on training to teach defensive tactics, fire safety, use of restraint, searches, driver training, weapons qualification and physical fitness is held daily. Students are also quizzed on policy weekly and recruits must maintain an academic average of at least 70 percent in order to graduate.

Also during the academy, the recruits performed community service providing toys for the Plant the Seed Foundation, assisting with the ninth annual Sheriff’s Food Drive and running as a unit in the 2014 5K Turkey Trot, which benefitted the National Alopecia Foundation.

“All 25 of you graduating here today should be very proud, as you have demonstrated hard work and dedication over the past 12 weeks in overcoming the challenges presented. I look forward to working with each and everyone of you,” said Evangelidis.

Dec 19, 2014

Two Sheriff’s Deputies Honored for Bravery at I-495 Crash

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Two Sheriff’s Deputies Honored for Bravery at I-495 Crash

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Worcester County Deputy Sheriffs Frank Crosby, left, and Robert Noonan Jr., stand next to their transport van Wednesday.

 

WEST BOYLSTON — It all happened in a flash.

With flames flaring 12 feet high, and a truck at risk for explosion, the two correctional officers waiting for emergency personnel to arrive in a life-threatening situation said it felt like an eternity.

By all accounts, July 14 was just like any other day for Worcester County Deputy Sheriffs Robert J. Noonan Jr. and Frank J. Crosby. The two have been partners for almost three years and spend the majority of their days driving inmates all over the state for out-of-county court hearings.

At about 3 p.m. that day, the two men were driving on Interstate 495 north in Marlboro, about a mile from Exit 25A for Interstate 290, with three Worcester County Jail and House of Correction prisoners in the back. The officers suddenly saw motorists pulling over as a pickup truck soared from the far right lane to the far left and rolled over. The truck was on the side landed right side up in an embankment, with the driver unconscious.

Officers Noonan and Crosby pulled over with their blue lights flashing. Officer Noonan jumped out to run over to the truck while Officer Crosby stayed back with the prisoners. Officer Noonan struggled to get the truck driver free. Alone in the truck, the victim was motionless, his foot still hitting the accelerator and the truck’s wheels spinning ferociously.

“Debris was flying everywhere,” Officer Noonan recalled. “The victim was in a crushed cab and it was all around him. His injuries were pretty severe. I tried opening the door. … Everything was just flying and flying.”

Then the front of the truck caught on fire. Officer Noonan took out his fire extinguisher and struggled to beat back the flames. By the time the fire was out, the rear of the truck began to blaze again and Officer Noonan’s knew his extinguisher was empty. The officer said his mind was racing, while the victim, a 49-year-old from Chelmsford, was still trapped and landscaping equipment around them was at risk of exploding.

“There was just nothing I could do,” Officer Noonan said. “I really (wanted) to make sure he did not suffer. If he had a fighting chance at all, I wanted to make sure he had that opportunity.”

By now, seven or eight drivers had pulled over on the highway and were out of their cars, rushing down to see what they could do to help. The officers yelled at the crowd to stay back and asked them to try to find fire extinguishers. Witnesses ran up and down stopped traffic, asking for any tools other drivers had available. The helping hands brought extinguishers to Officer Crosby, who was flagging down truckers for assistance. Officer Crosby even found a man with a case of bottled water, and he tossed bottles to Officer Noonan “like footballs” to douse the flames.

“It started out with white smoke and it just turned black,” Officer Crosby said.

When emergency personnel and firefighters arrived about 15 or 20 minutes later, according to the officers, the men stepped aside and left to make sure the inmates in their van got back to the West Boylston jail. The victim in the single-vehicle rollover crash, identified later as Philip Perdikis, was determined by officials to have died at the crash site from his injuries.

Both Officer Noonan and Officer Crosby received the American Correctional Association Life Saving Award at the organization’s conference last month in Nashville, Tennessee, along with medals of honor for their efforts in the incident.

Seated in Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis’ office this week, the deputies were filled with emotion as they recounted every moment in great detail. The duo said they were confident in knowing they did everything they could to try to save Mr. Perdikis; they noted they never heard from the man’s family or made contact with them.

Sheriff Evangelidis called the men’s efforts nothing short of heroic and said their actions reflect well on the entire department.

“The important thing I’d like people to understand is how hard correctional officers work. … Everybody in law enforcement works hard, but sometimes correctional officers aren’t recognized in that way,” he said. “This is an example of correctional officers going above and beyond the call of duty.”

Officer Noonan, 48, of Worcester, and Officer Crosby, 51, of Holden, say the incident brought them closer, though they were always great friends. Officer Noonan has been with the department for 19 years and Officer Crosby for 25.

“We definitely have a brotherly relationship right now,” Officer Crosby said. “We’ve gone through the good, the bad and the ugly and he’s still there.”

The two deputy sheriffs say they thoroughly enjoy their jobs and the opportunity to work together. They put hundreds of miles on their car daily, and switching off driving each day so neither one gets tired of it.

“If I had to have a partner, I’d like Frank,” Officer Noonan added. “He has a good heart.”