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.
Sep 19, 2014
Produce grown by inmates donated to pantry
By Kimberly Petalas
Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis unloads a milk crate of summer squash at the Rutland Food Pantry. Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis, food pantry volunteer Lynne Amsden, volunteer Paula Stidsen, Officer Brian Almstrom, and volunteer Cynthia Katinas help process the food donation.
Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis recently paid a visit to the Rutland Food Pantry to donate some fresh produce that was harvested as part of a new program aimed at creating healthier communities.
Evangelidis has implemented the Inmate Agricultural Training Program at Worcester County Jail and House of Correction in West Boylston, in partnership with the state Department of Agriculture. Mentioned
The sheriff ’s farming program, which utilizes an existing 12-acre parcel of land appropriated by the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, is tended to during the week by inmate labor. The crops, which are all organic, include corn, zucchini, summer squash, acorn squash, butternut squash and pumpkins. With just under $1,000 in initial start up costs for seed and fertilizer, the program has grown into a costeffective win-win for both the inmates and the local community, Evangelidis said.
“Fresh produce is a rarity,” said Paula Stidsen, a volunteer at the Rutland Food Pantry. “This is a real treat to those that we serve.”
Cynthia Katinas, another volunteer at the pantry, said the gift from the sheriff ’s office is “a real treasure.”
“Usually we are handing out canned food so this gives our clients something different,” she said. “It is nice to have and it also defrays the cost for us by having food donated to us.”
Officer Brian Almstrom is one of the officers who helps to oversee the program, spending his time in the fields with the inmates.
“It really brightens their day and ultimately changes their mood,” he said. “They are out in the fresh air and I think that makes a complete difference for them. It is changing them as a person.”
The sheriff personally unloaded dozens of milk crates full of vegetables at the Rutland Food Pantry on Sept. 12, saying that the Wachusett area still holds a special place in his heart.
“Being the former state rep from the area, I still hold a special place for these communities, even though my coverage area as sheriff is greater than this,” he said. “It truly changes them as a person, and that is the point of these programs. We see a lot of the older inmates in this program, while the younger ones are involved in the painting and building community service programs. We are giving them valuable life skills so when they leave, they have something productive they can do in society.”
This year’s harvest has yielded more than 9,000 ears of corn and 12,000 lbs of additional vegetables, providing inmates with a better alternative to the usual canned vegetables with the added benefit of a significant savings of over $20,000 in inmate food costs at the jail.
“The initiative by the Worcester County Sheriff ’s Office touches on every imaginable aspect of common sense I can think of,” said Massachusetts Department of Agriculture Commissioner Greg Watson. “Inmates are learning valuable skills while at the same time supplementing their diets with fresh, healthy produce that they have grown and harvested themselves.”
Sep 19, 2014
9/12/2014 7:09:00 AM
Gives inmate grown crops to CAC
News Staff Writer
GARDNER — Sheriff Lew Evangelidis wheeled a shopping cart loaded with pumpkins and various types of squash to the Pleasant Street offices of Gardner’s Community Action Committee on Thursday morning.
“We have about 400 or 500 pounds of vegetables,” he said.
Inmates at the Worcester County House of Correction in West Boylston have been running a small farm on land at the jail site for the past three years. Recently, Sheriff Evangelidis expanded the program from 10 acres to 12 acres.
“The inmates get a lot out of it,” he said.
With more than 300 acres of land at the jail site, it isSheriff Lew Evangelidis wheeled a shopping cart loaded with pumpkins and various types of squash to the Pleasant Street offices of Gardner’s Community Action Committee on Thursday morning. a low cost way for the Sheriff’s office to offer a new opportunity to the inmates. The program allows 10 inmates a chance to work outdoors and pick up valuable work and life skills while spending time on the farm throughout the year.
“We started this with about $900 in seeds,” he said.
The farm program produces all organic crops of corn, zucchini, summer squash, acorn squash, butternut squash and pumpkins.
This year’s harvest has yielded over 9,000 ears of corn and 12,000 pounds of additional vegetables providing inmates with a better alternative to the usual canned vegetables with the added benefit of a significant savings of over $20,000 in inmate food costs at the jail.
The inmates who work on the farm are screened for any behavioral concerns before they are allowed to work on the project outside the jail facility, he said.
It is similar to the work program Sheriff Evangelidis operates, allowing inmates the chance to perform work for municipalities or non-profit groups throughout the county.
While the project is good for the inmates themselves, it is also good for the many communities receiving bounty from their labor at the farm. The Sheriff said he makes sure that the ample produce from that farm gets to people who need it most, such as the families who rely on Gardner’s Community Action Committee for help with obtaining groceries.
Gardner CAC Executive Director Julie Meehan said her organization assists more than 10,000 families every year from Gardner and the greater Gardner area.
“We can see 30 to 40 families a day,” she said.
The Gardner CAC has dry goods and meat donated from agencies and private businesses boxed and ready to be given to people in need.
Fresh produce, however, is hard to come by, Ms. Meehan said.
“It’s a lot of canned and processed stuff,” she said.
The fresh vegetables brought by Sheriff Evangelidis and his staff will be handed out on a first come, first serve basis. Ms. Meehan said whenever fresh food comes in, many of the Gardner Community Action Committee clients will share recipes for the produce.
Sheriff Evangelidis is also already preparing for the annual coat drive his office runs in the winter, ensuring disadvantaged children have outerwear to keep warm.
The coat drive is set to kick off in December.
Sep 19, 2014
Friday, September 12, 2014
Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis, right, delivers squash from the inmate farm project to Matthew J. Daly, center, Veterans Inc. chef, at the Grove Street facility Friday. Pvt. Bryan Almstrom, helps the farm program. (T&G Staff/BRAD PETRISHEN)
By Brad Petrishen TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
WORCESTER — If someone had driven past Veterans Inc. on Grove Street Friday morning, they might have wondered about the tall man in sharp business attire unloading butternut squash out the back of a House of Correction truck.
“Bumper crop,” a smiling Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis said of the haul from the jail farm this year. “Not only do we feed people in the jail, we’ve got surplus.”
Mr. Evangelidis was in the city Friday dropping off some of that surplus to the veterans organization. Before that, he was at the Rutland Food Pantry. His office also planned to make donations at food pantries in Sutton and Millbury.
The harvest is the result of an inmate farm project he restarted in 2012 on land owned by the jail that had been vacant.
What started with 10 acres has expanded to 12 acres, he said, and this year the effort yielded more than 9,000 ears of corn and 12,000 pounds of vegetables.
The result, the sheriff said, has been fresher food for inmates, a $20,000 savings for taxpayers on food costs and better morale at the prison.
“Our inmates — particularly the older ones — benefit from the patience (required) of growing,” Mr. Evangelidis said.
“It’s better than sitting in a cell,” agreed Lt. David Kalagher, a 32-year jail employee who remembers the land being farmed decades ago under different circumstances.
“When I started here, it was more like hard labor,” Lt. Kalagher said, describing past sheriffs’ approach to the farm as more “old-school.”
Mr. Kalagher said the farm project was abandoned for years until Mr. Evangelidis revived it in 2012. Mr. Kalagher said he is thrilled with the result, noting the inmates in the program were able to turn $1,000 in seeds into more than 10,000 pounds of produce.
“Lots of the guys we have in the jail are from the city, so they’re learning,” he said. “They get to eat the food that resulted from their hard work.”
This year’s all-organic crops include corn, zucchini, summer squash, acorn squash, butternut squash and pumpkins.
“I’ll definitely take these,” Veterans Inc. chef Matthew J. Daly said Friday of the squash, getting Mr. Evangelidis to promise to return in November ahead of the group’s annual Holiday Harvest.
Rachael Caplin, volunteer and donations coordinator for Veterans Inc., thanked the sheriff enthusiastically for the donation.
“I don’t know what we would have done otherwise,” she said, noting they lost some donors this year and are scrambling to find more.
The Grove Street pantry, which serves about 800 veteran families per year, is always looking for help, Ms. Caplin said.
Mr. Evangelidis said he hopes to have even more to offer next year, as he’s planning a “significant” expansion.
“So many good things have sprouted as a result of our farming,” he said.