Newspaper

Oct 8, 2015

Sheriff Takes Aim at Plague of Graffiti in Worcester

By Samantha Allen

Telegram & Gazette

May 17, 2015

 

Officer Daniel Joslyn from the Worcester County Sheriff's Department removes graffiti from a dumpster on Temple Street, using ground walnut shells in an abrasive blaster.

 

 

Officer Daniel Joslyn from the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department removes graffiti from a dumpster on Temple Street, using ground walnut shells in an abrasive blaster.

 

 

WORCESTER – With the help of a powerful machine, some crushed walnut shells and a crew of inmates, Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis hopes to remove unwanted graffiti from walls in Worcester and surrounding towns.

On Friday, the Worcester County sheriff unveiled a new truck designed to help scrub away paint sprayed on buildings. ACE Temperature Control on Ward Street and The Compass Tavern on Harding Street had graffiti “tags” blown away in a matter of minutes by the team.

“It’s happening so regularly around here and that’s part of the reason why I was so focused on this, because graffiti is like a weed,” Mr. Evangelidis said. “When you don’t stay on top of it, it seems to grow out of control. But when you stay on top of it, the more you prevent it. So we’re just determined to make this service available.”

Mr. Evangelidis said he first set out to help Worcester and the county when he heard of a rash of tagging in late 2013. At that time, dozens of buildings in the city were defaced, and a short time later police arrested and charged two men with some of the crimes.

Worcester has a law that requires property owners to remove graffiti within a certain amount of time. The Department of Inspectional Services can start the clock on a 7-day removal countdown.

After that owners face a fine of $25 per day. City staff said, however, it is “extremely rare” for owners to be fined.  It has only happened once, according to John Hill, spokesman for the city manager’s office.

Mr. Evangelidis said previously that he went to community meetings and heard about the struggles local businesses were facing keeping up with graffiti removal. So he set out to purchase the truck, following an example set by other sheriffs across Massachusetts, he said. Now, the sheriff says, he’d like to help out any business that needs assistance in Worcester County, free of charge, through his department’s inmate work program.

Friday morning, a supervising officer blasted the walls of the local businesses with a power wash-style unit that uses environmentally-friendly matter, including crushed nut shells, to remove the offending paint. Inmates were on hand to clean up. The crew offered to return to the tavern to retouch the paint if needed.

In a test round, the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department came out a few weeks ago to remove graffiti at Dooley’s Cleaners on Pleasant Street. Manager Andy J. Baxter said his building was tagged in 2013.

Mr. Baxter said he was relieved to have the graffiti removed and called it a much-needed service for the community.

“They really did an awesome job,” he said. “(Graffiti) is a sign of blight. Some small businesses can’t afford to hire someone.”

 

Oct 8, 2015

Sheriff & D.A. Warn Residents to Beware of Recent Jury Duty Scam

April 27, 2015

Description: Worcester-County-Sheriffs-Office-deesign-1

West Boylston – Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis and Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early are warning residents about a recent phone scam where citizens are being targeted and threatened with prosecution for falling to comply with jury service in federal or state courts.

In recent days, a caller identifying himself as an Officer from the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office has attempted to pressure recipients into providing credit card and confidential data, potentially leading to identity theft and fraud. These calls, which threaten recipients with fines and jail time if they do not comply, are fraudulent and are not connected with the U.S. courts or the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office.

The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office does not contact residents and demand payments or ask for credit card information on behalf of the Courts regarding jury duty and is asking residents to be vigilant against this most recent scam. Federal and State courts do not require anyone to provide any sensitive information in a telephone call or email. Most contact between a federal or state court and a prospective juror will be through the U.S. mail, and any phone contact by real court officials will not include requests for Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, or any other  sensitive information.

Persons receiving such a telephone call or email should not provide the requested information, and should notify the Clerk of Court’s office of the U.S. District Court in their area. For more on the Massachusetts Court System Jury Information, please visit: http://www.mass.gov/courts/jury-info/.

Oct 8, 2015

Inmates Train Dogs

Program helps get dogs ready for adoption

5/13/2015

Damien Fisher, The Gardner News

 

REGION /WEST BOYLSTON — Remy was sent to jail for jumping on people. Gabe had a nipping problem. And Kingston was just too skittish.

News staff photo by DAMIEN FISHER Luis Maldonado holds on to the leash while Richard Velazquez gets Remy to jump for a ball. The inmates have been working to help the dog lose weight and be gentler with people.

 

 

Luis Maldonado holds on to the leash while Richard Velazquez gets Remy to jump for a ball. The inmates have been working to help the dog lose weight and be gentler with people.

These are not criminal offenses, but they are traits that will keep shelter dogs from being adopted into new families. If uncorrected, these are traits that will get dogs sent back to shelters after they are adopted, creating a cycle of incarceration for dogs in need of help.

A new program being run at the Worcester County House of Correction has inmates train these shelter dogs, rehabilitating the canines to get them ready for release.

“At the shelter, we have a limited amount of time, as do most people,” said Lindsay Doray, the adoption center manager for the Second Chance Animal Shelter, a no-kill shelter in East Brookfield.

The shelter does not give up on the dogs, but there are always a few that are tough to place. That’s where the inmates come in.

“The inmate has the time to work with the dogs,” said Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis.

Studies have shown that inmates who bond with animals have lower rates of re-offending and going back to jail, Mr. Evangelidis said. There are also studies that show an animal in a jail setting will help ease tension and stress, making it safer for the jail staff and the inmates.

This all sounded like enough of an upside for Mr. Evangelidis to start looking for an agency to bring in dogs. He initially considered an organization that trains service animals for veterans, but that group needed a two-year commitment, too much for most inmates.

News staff photo by DAMIEN FISHER Bobby, an inmate at the Worcester County House of Correction, has been training Gabe for almost six weeks.

Bobby, an inmate at the Worcester County House of Correction, has been training Gabe for almost six weeks.

County jail inmates are sentenced to no more than two and a half years. Second Chance needed help getting the dogs it rescues ready for adoption, with the necessary training typically set at two months. In a few weeks with the inmates, both Gabe and Remy have turned around their behavior.

Gabe is much better about nipping, and Remy has stopped jumping on people. Kingston has been in jail for a week, and his skittishness has already started to ease. Initially considered overweight, Remy has even lost 20 pounds while staying in the jail.

The inmates are with the dogs 24 hours a day. Each dog gets two inmates in the minimum-security building at the jail campus. These are the inmates who are least likely to cause trouble and who are making progress in their own rehabilitation. They have outside jobs through the sheriff’s community outreach programs, and they are all considered nonviolent. They are still inmates in a jail.

“Jail is stressful,” said Hilary Malloy, the staff member overseeing the dog program. “The dogs have made such a difference.”

A bad letter from home or a hard phone call with a relative can make it tough for even the inmates in the minimum security building. The dogs provide an outlet for the inmates. They can take the animals out into the yard and play to relieve some of the stress, she said.

All of this attention makes the dogs better and more adoptable, and it helps the inmates as well. Trainers from the shelter come out every week to work with the inmates who handle the dogs. They learn what to do for the animals and how to care for them.

“I like taking care of the dog, it gives me more of a sense of responsibility,” said Richard Velazquez, one of Remy’s trainers.

The dogs are well loved by all the inmates in the building and the staff. The inmates who train the dogs keep them in their dorm-like rooms, training them in basic commands every day, and taking them out to a fenced-off section of the recreation yard for playing.

“Never in a million years,” said Bobby, one of the inmates training Gabe. “I never thought they would have dogs to train with.”

Not all of the inmates wanted their full names used in this story.

Bobby had dogs on the outside and he has enjoyed getting close to Gabe. It’s not just the companionship of having the dog around, though. Being a dog trainer also gives him someone else to think about.

“It’s been a lot of responsibility,” he said. “You’re not just thinking of your own needs.”

Ms. Doray hopes to have as many as six dogs placed in the jail with inmates. The consistent and near-constant training the inmates are able to provide prepares these dogs for adoption much faster than her typical volunteers can. For a small shelter like Second Chance, that’s huge, she said.

“The dogs are able to get out and into homes much faster,” she said.

Remy has made so much progress that a jail staff member is adopting him.

“When he leaves, I’m going to miss him,” said inmate Luis Maldonado, Remy’s other trainer. “When you get an attachment to a dog, it hurts.”

Oct 8, 2015

Inmates, Rescue Dogs Thrive in Worcester County Jail Program

Written By: Peter Schworm/ The Boston Globe

May 05, 2015

 

Matthew Witaszek (left) and Luis Maldonado let Remy and Gabe romp outdoors.

Matthew Witaszek (left) and Luis Maldonado let Remy and Gabe romp outdoors.

WEST BOYLSTON — Luis Maldonado rummaged through a bin filled with plastic toys until he found Gabe’s well-chewed favorite. At the sight of the bouncy ball, the Lab-mix puppy jumped up with excitement, then bounded toward the jail door and the fenced yard outside. 

Maldonado, an inmate at the Worcester County Jail & House of Correction, followed close behind, holding the leash tight as Gabe raced ahead. 

For the past few weeks, Gabe and a second dog, Remy, have had a home at this minimum-security section of the jail, sharing a dorm-style room with four inmates and becoming like mascots for convicts like 34-year-old Maldonado. 

The dogs came from Second Chance Animal Shelter in East Brookfield as part of a new program with the Worcester County sheriff’s office, in which low-risk offenders in the work-release program help train rescue dogs until they are ready for adoption. 

At the same time, the dogs have boosted morale among inmates, many of whom are nearing the end of their sentences, and reacquainted them with the daily responsibilities of civilian life.

“They put a smile on everyone’s face,” said Matthew Witaszek, who shares a cinder-block room with Maldonado and the rescue dogs. “The responsibility — it changes people. It’s good for this place.”

Witaszek, who has been behind bars for four years for breaking and entering, said his drug addiction sent his life into a downward spiral. Now 31, he is looking ahead to the next chapter — a halfway house, a job, a new start. 

The dogs have brightened his days, he said, and given the inmates a new purpose.

“It helps me focus,” he said of training the dogs. “And not just on me.” 

 Bobby, an inmate at the Worcester County Jail & House of Correction, shared space on his bunk with Gabe, a shelter dog.

Bobby, an inmate at the Worcester County Jail & House of Correction, shared space on his bunk with Gabe, a shelter dog.

Lew Evangelidis, the Worcester County sheriff, said the dogs quickly lifted inmates’ spirits and created a more upbeat atmosphere. While the dogs sleep in one room, they spend time with other inmates in common areas and often join them while watching television. 

“Everyone can feel it,” he said. “Every correctional facility should have a program like this.” 

A 2012 report from the state Department of Correction found that the evidence of canine training programs in correctional facilities had not been explored but that anecdotal reports were “overwhelmingly positive.” 

According to the report, a medium-security prison in Oklahoma paired inmates with dogs and found that the program decreased depression and aggressive behavior. 

As for the dogs, trainers “simply cannot dedicate the same amount of time to daily training as the inmates do,” the report found.

Evangelidis said he hopes the dogs will help prepare inmates at the Worcester jail for the routine demands of life after prison, easing what is often a difficult transition. He hopes to expand the program and determine its effectiveness by tracking recidivism rates among those who have helped care for the dogs. 

Hilary Malloy, who oversees the program, said the dogs have brought out the best in the inmates. Everybody pets them when they pass, and even the “gangster wannabes” talk to them in a puppy-dog voice, she said.

Gabe bonded with Luis Maldonado.

Gabe bonded with Luis Maldonado.

The dogs, meanwhile, have thrived with so much attention. Both arrived at the jail with substantial behavioral problems, especially Gabe, the puppy, who was probably taken from his litter too early.

But with advice from shelter workers, the inmates have trained the dogs to behave. 

“They’ve done a super job,” said trainer Joe Blancato. “I’ve seen incredible improvement.” 

The dogs will probably be ready for adoption much sooner than if they had stayed at the kennel, workers said, clearing out spots for more dogs. 

“It’s going to help us help more,” said Lindsay Doray, the shelter’s development manager. 

Maldonado said Gabe was a “little hyper at first,” but has calmed down as he’s gotten more familiar with his surroundings. 

“He’s a smart dog,” Maldonado said, smiling down at him. “He picked things up fast.” 

Watching as the two dogs played, an inmate who gave only his first name, Bob, said taking care of the animals has been a lot of work, but it’s been worth it. 

“It’s 24 hours a day with them, a lot of responsibility,” he said. “But you play with them and it cheers you right up.”