Oct 6, 2015
Saturday, January 24, 2015
By Samantha Allen
TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis talks about the Second Chance Act grant award.
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.”
Oct 6, 2015
By Michael Hartwell
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 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 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 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
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 his visit Thursday.
Oct 6, 2015
Worcester County Sheriff Given Grant to Prevent Recidivism
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.
Oct 6, 2015
Friday, January 2, 2015
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.