Feb 10, 2016
ATHOL DAILY NEWS – 2/10/16
Four years ago, Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis decided to implement an organic farming program at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction. With some food for thought and just under $1,000 for seed and start up costs, the sheriff converted what once was an overgrown pasture at the jail into a bountiful 13-plus acre success story that is now feeding inmates as well as local soup kitchens, food pantries, veterans groups, senior centers, charitable organizations and many community centers throughout the county that are in need.
The land, appropriated by the state Department of Agriculture, is located on the grounds of the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction and is tended to during the week by inmate labor. The crops which are all organic consist of corn, zucchini, green beans, summer squash, spaghetti squash, blue hubbard squash and pumpkins. With minimal costs and lots of manpower the program, over the last four years, has grown into a cost effective win-win for both the inmates and the local community.
This year’s harvest yielded 9,000 ears of corn and 12,000 pounds of additional vegetables, providing inmates with a better alternative to the usual canned vegetables including significant savings of over $20,000 in inmate food costs at the jail.
Another plus from the prison produce is that the community benefits as well with over 400 pounds of organic vegetables picked fresh daily during growing season. Inmates participating in the agriculture program harvested garden fresh produce that was delivered to over 70 local organizations including Veterans Inc., St. Peter’s Food Panty, The Friendly House and St. John’s Food for the Poor Program of Worcester, St. Mary’s and St. Ann’s food pantries of Shrewsbury, Milford Community Supper, Wheat Community Service of Clinton, Millbury and Sutton food pantries, Gardner CAC, Fitchburg Catholic Charities, Leominster Catholic Charities and for the first time, thanks to a bumper crop of pumpkins, all 60 communities in Worcester County received a special fall delivery from the Sheriff’s farming program.
“We are so thankful for the fresh produce provided by the sheriff’s farming program. Canned vegetables are a staple here at our center; having this fresh organic produce is a special treat. Often, individuals who come to our center do not have access on their own to these healthy and nutritious food items,” said St. John’s Food for the Poor Program Director Billy Reilly.
Along with the community harvest, inmates participating in the program are also farming for a better future. Studies have shown that inmates given the opportunity to work outdoors tended to be healthier and less aggressive while the training and work experience working the farms provided a reduction in recidivism. Michael, a 34-year-old inmate in the sheriff’s organic gardening program, said he loves the farm work, noting, “It gives me a sense of pride and giving back to society.”
“With over 9,000 ears of corn and 12,000 pounds of fresh organic produce grown at the jail, we are saving money while teaching inmates new skills and a sense of self-worth and dignity that comes from a hard day’s work; at the same time, local food banks and those in need in our community benefit as well,” said Evangelidis. “Our fourth year of farming produced such a record harvest, we are already counting the days until we can begin the planting again this spring.”
Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, center. Lt. David Kalagher, left and Assistant Deputy Superintendent Michael Temple help to load some of the crates of freshly picked corn at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction. Over 9,000 ears of corn were grown with inmate labor as part of the Sheriff’s Organic Farming Program. Submitted Photo
Feb 10, 2016
By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer COMMUNITY ADVOCATE – Northboro
With humor, pop culture references, and actual footage of inmates, Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis presented his powerful Face2Face Program to eighth-grade students at Robert E. Melican Middle School.
The program’s intended purpose is to debunk the myths about substance abuse with actual facts and reinforce the notion that your choices really do matter, especially in middle and high school.
He has presented this program for the past five years to over 190, 000 students and is passionate that he is making a difference by giving these students hard facts in an entertaining and engaging way.
“As a school community, we are well aware of the opioid issue facing all communities and middle school is a time when kids have a lot of choices to make,” Principal Michelle Karb said. “We know a lot of experimenting takes place. I think that combined with how society views drugs and alcohol, this [program] seemed like a good fit.”
“I believe that because the inmates in my jail, where 90 percent of them are substance abusers, have told me that they wish they knew then what they know now as they would have made different choices,” Evangelidis said. “The fact of the matter is that these drugs are dangerous and addictive. Addiction is a disease. All drugs effect the brain especially in teens.”
One of the myths, he told the students, is that substance abusers can quit whenever they want but that is not the case. For those that end up being incarcerated, their life changes fast when they are in a jail cell. The sheriff elaborated a bit on what a day in prison looks like for an inmate, even showing an actual prison uniform.
He used examples of many recognizable faces in pop culture who are affected by drug and alcohol use, such as Charlie Sheen, Macaulay Culkin and Lindsay Lohan, to show the negative effects on their physical appearance. He spoke of Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse and others who have died from drug overdoses. The common thread with these stars is that they all made bad choices.
One of the most compelling parts of the sheriff’s presentation was software that allowed students to see themselves as addicts and the physical deterioration drug abuse can cause. Pictures of several students were taken and transformed in front of the audience.
The students were asked why they thought people used drugs and alcohol; they gave many thoughtful responses including peer pressure, depression, to fit in, to feel good, to have fun, for escape, and more.
Evangelidis went on to explain why marijuana is called the “gateway drug” with the myth that many feel it is safe because it’s natural and from the earth.
“I heard from so many inmates that they started with marijuana, which they began to smoke on a daily basis. They relied on that daily high. Once you get high, it changes everything,” said Evangelidis.
The students listened attentively as Evangelidis explained the myths and facts about many addictive substances.
“Another common myth is that prescription medications are safe because they are prescribed by a medical doctor,” he noted. “When they are not used as intended they can be quite dangerous. It’s unfortunate that this generation is being referred to as ‘Generation Rx’ as many have tried prescription opioids.”
Evangelidis said he hoped the program reached at least a few students, encouraging them to make better choices.
(l to r) Eighth-grade students Liz DeVarney, Lucy Ganvin, Jack Rafferty and Quinn Potter with Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis. The students allowed the use of their photos to simulate how they would be transformed if they abused substances.
Jan 20, 2016
The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office has announced two of its correction officers have received the Medal of Valor Award from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety & Security. The Medal of Valor Award is awarded to a correctional employee who demonstrates actions above and beyond the call of duty, disregarding the potential for danger to him or herself. Officer Frank Crosby of Holden and Officer Robert Noonan Jr. of Webster received the awards during the 18th Annual Correctional Employee of the Year Ceremony held at the Massachusetts State House on October 2, 2015. The Medal of Valor Award is reserved for those acts which are performed in the course of a dangerous incident, a high degree of stress or risk to the employee or while saving or protecting the life of a colleague or inmate. On July 14, 2014, Officers Frank Crosby and Robert Noonan while transporting three inmates to the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office observed a vehicle rollover on the median strip of interstate 495. In response, the Officers immediately activated the emergency lights, stopped the transportation van to clear the left lane for emergency responders and contacted 911. Officer Noonan than ran to the vehicle and observed the operator was inextricably trapped and that fire had broken out. With the vehicle fully engulfed, Officer Noonan retrieved fire extinguishers and water bottles from Officer Crosby as well as concerned bystanders which then brought the fire under control. Sadly, the vehicle operator died from his injuries sustained during the accident. However no additional injuries were incurred that day due to the rapid response of Officers Crosby and Noonan to control the scene.
“The actions taken by Officers Frank Crosby & Robert Noonan on the day of July 14, 2014 are nothing short of heroic and embody the spirit of the Medal of Valor awards they received. It takes an incredible amount of courage to run towards that sort of fiery scene.” Evangelidis continued “This truly is an example of correctional officers going above and beyond the call of duty. They represent a true officer and we are all very proud of what they did.” said Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis.
Crosby is a 25 year veteran & Noonan a 14 year veteran with the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office.
Officer Robert Noonan & Officer Frank Crosby are congratulated by WCSO Captain William Walker, Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis & Governor Charles D. Baker after receiving the Medal of Valor Award at the 18th Annual Correctional Employee of the Year Awards Ceremony held at the Massachusetts State House on October 2, 2015
Jan 8, 2016
By LEOMINSTER CHAMPION
Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis welcomed 12 new correction officers to the Worcester County
Sheriff ’s Office during a graduation ceremony on June 5 at Anna Maria College.
Leominster Resident Officer Jonathan Baldwin, who was the recipient of the Francis T. Foley Academic Award for the highest class average, as well as the Lawrence P. Sullivan Physical Fitness Award, was part of the 43rd graduating class of the Worcester County Sheriff ’s Office Basic Recruit Training Academy. The group, which also included five military servicemen, was the eighth class to graduate under Evangelidis’ 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 associate’s 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 United States military applicants are given priority status in the hiring process.
“Our new officers have met the highest hiring standards in corrections today and have completed the finest training academy in Massachusetts,” Evangelidis said. “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 and 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 serving breakfast at St. John’s Food for the Poor Program in Worcester, as well as running as a unit in the Third Annual On Guard Initiative 5K, which is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of mental health and suicide prevention among correction officers.
“All 12 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,” Evangelidis said. “I look forward to working with each and everyone of you.”