Jul 5, 2016
Jane Serrano speaks during a dedication ceremony for the Garden of Faith & Hope at the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office in Fitchburg on Thursday morning. Serrano’s son died of an opiate overdose. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE PHOTOS / Anna Burgess
The Garden of Faith & Hope
By Anna Burgess, firstname.lastname@example.org
FITCHBURG — Speaking at a dedication ceremony for a garden in memory of people who died from addiction, Nick Barbera said the garden will serve as “a reminder to us all and to the community that addiction is a real battle.”
“It’s affected everybody here,” said Barbera, who is director of external programs for the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s affected everybody I know.”
On Thursday afternoon, law-enforcement and court officials, the families of addicts in recovery, and the families of addicts who have died gathered in the small park outside Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis’ satellite office in Fitchburg.
Whereas last week there was a ring of trees surrounding sparse grass and concrete pathways, on Thursday there was a beautiful tribute to those who have died from addiction.
In a bed of fresh mulch were tomato plants and various flowers, along with homemade plaques bearing names of those who died battling addiction: Cathy, Jack, Jason, Nicole.
Called the Garden of Faith & Hope, the project was the brainchild of Community Corrections Program Director Mark Leary and recovering addicts.
“We thought, ‘this is a beautiful place,’ and we thought we’d make it for people struggling with addiction and in memory of people who died from addiction,” Leary said. “We wanted to bring the garden alive and the park alive.”
Families of people who died battling addiction wrote inspirational quotes and messages of hope, faith, and peace around the garden.
Ronnie Serrano and his wife, Jane, who started the nonprofit Preventing Addiction Resources Team after their son died of an opiate overdose, spoke of the stigma of addiction.
“My son was more than just another addict,” Jane Serrano said. “My son was a beautiful soul that will no longer be walking here on earth.”
Michelle Dunn, who founded the local chapter of support organization Learn to Cope after her daughter died of an overdose, also offered her perspective.
“I can’t imagine going through something worse than losing a child, especially in such a tragic way,” she said, but added that every day, they live to honor her daughter’s life.
The garden dedication also served as a graduation ceremony for nine people finishing the Community Corrections Center substance-abuse recovery program.
Leary said the difference between the graduates on Thursday and on the day they started the program is “the most amazing transformation you’ll ever see.”
“When somebody is fighting addiction, to see them take a step forward is a wonderful thing,” Barbera said.
Jane Serrano and Dunn said they were proud of the graduates, and glad to see hope for recovery.
“People really do recover,” Dunn said. “Each and every day you wake up and make the decision to not use is a good day.”
Evangelidis said in a statement that the dedication “represents a community effort, all of us working together to do all we can to prevent another tragedy and young life lost to opiates. My heart goes out to the families who have lost a loved one to addiction and I am proud of our graduates who are now on the road to recovery and a better life.”
Jun 29, 2016
Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis Announces
Annual Senior Picnic Date of August 20th
Shrewsbury – Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis has announced the Sheriff’s Annual Senior Picnic will be held at SAC Park in Shrewsbury on Saturday August 20, 2016 from 11:00am to 3:00pm. Admission is free for all seniors.
“As Sheriff, hosting the Annual Senior Picnic is one of the great highlights of the year. This year’s Senior Picnic will be a wonderful fun filled day to give back to the seniors of Worcester County who have given so much to their communities over the years.” said Evangelidis.
The Sheriff’s Annual Senior Picnic has become the biggest senior picnic event throughout the region and is sponsored by the Worcester County Reserve Deputy Sheriff’s Association including donations by many local businesses. In addition to a traditional BBQ menu, the Sheriff’s Picnic will include a fun afternoon of complimentary bingo games, raffle prizes and music entertainment.
For more information on the Sheriff’s Senior Picnic, please contact the Worcester County Reserve Deputy Sheriff’s Association at:
Jun 28, 2016
for Worcester County Communities
Most recently helping out at Spencer’s Camp Laurel Wood
Spencer – Committed to making a positive difference both inside the Worcester County Jail & House of Correction and in the community, Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis has been providing inmate work crews to assist budget strapped cities and towns all over Worcester County. The Sheriff’s Inmate Community Service Program provides cost free labor to municipalities and non-profit organizations by non-violent, non-sex offender individuals who have earned a place in the program and under Sheriff Evangelidis the inmate work crews have been very hard at work.
Since taking office in January of 2011, Evangelidis has more than tripled the size of the Inmate Community Service Program providing Worcester County communities with an impressive six million dollars in savings along with over 1,000 work projects completed. Another plus from the Sheriff’s expanded program, inmates benefit as well by learning job skills and a sense of self worth and dignity that comes from a productive days work while the recipients, hundreds of local non-profit organizations and municipalities from throughout the county have had projects completed by the inmate work crews that they could not have afforded otherwise.
Most recently, the Sheriff’s inmate work program spent the week assisting at Camp Laurel Wood in Spencer preparing hundreds of campsites and tents in anticipation of the thousands of young campers and Girl Scouts who will attend camp there during the summer months. Under Evangelidis, the inmate work program has provided over $50,000 in savings in labor and maintenance costs for Camp Laurel Wood.
“As usual they did a super job, the campsites look great.” said Camp Laurel Wood Site Supervisor, Jim Looney. “Every spring, there is a tremendous amount to do here in preparation of the thousands of young campers and Girl Scouts who will camp here all summer long. Having the inmate labor saves us an extraordinary amount of time, manpower and money and we can not thank the Sheriff enough for helping us out each year ” said Looney.
“In addition to our primary responsibility of public safety, our department is also proud to serve as a resource for Worcester County cities and towns. Through our inmate community service program, we not only save millions of dollars for our local communities but promote the idea that the inmates who work in this program, they are people trying to turn their lives around.” Evangelidis continued “These individuals have earned their way into this program, are giving back and the community benefits as well. With thousands of projects already completed county-wide, this week we were happy to help out at Camp Laurel Wood in Spencer. It’s a true win-win program.” said Sheriff Evangelidis.
For more information on the Sheriff’s Inmate Community Service Program
Jun 28, 2016
Inmate Thomas LaFrance says writing letters in his cell helps him meditate. He is seeking to enter the STOP program.
By Brian MacQuarrie GLOBE STAFF JUNE 25, 2016
WEST BOYLSTON — Antwan Stevenson has been behind bars, time and again, for a total of more than five years since adolescence. The 24-year-old has run with a violent Dorchester gang, several friends have been killed, and his father was shot dead in January.
“I have to change,” he said, sitting on a bunk in a 9-by-11-foot cell.
Finally, this father of three thinks he has found a way: an intense six-month program at the Worcester County House of Correction in which inmates confront the reasons they abused drugs or alcohol and the bitter consequences that followed.
The program is voluntary, its 36 participants must be screened and approved, and attendance is mandatory at daily classes that range from anger management to the architecture of the criminal mind.
No other county in the state has an addiction program as long as this one, jail officials said, and the support does not stop when these inmates walk free. Follow-up services are designed to make their progress more than a temporary change.
“I wanted to understand why I do the things I do,” said Stevenson, who was convicted of burglary. Only when he woke up in custody, Stevenson said, did he learn he had broken into a police officer’s home in a crime he did not remember.
“I don’t want to die the way my friends have died, in the way my father died,” Stevenson said.
For Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis, the Substance Treatment Opportunity Program — or STOP — is designed to give inmates the mental and emotional tools to resist temptation when they leave this medium-security facility. By doing so, the thinking goes that their communities also will be safer.
“This is not about coddling anybody,” said Evangelidis, a former prosecutor and state representative. “But what we do is we meet people halfway.”
Results are encouraging.
The recidivism rate — which measures how many inmates are convicted again after release — is 26 percent for STOP graduates. For the facility as a whole, the rate is 40 percent after three years and 56 percent after five years, correction officials said.
“Enough is enough, you know?” said Edwin Ortiz, a 34-year-old from Worcester who is serving time for assaulting his girlfriend.
“I knew that I had an addiction problem, but I didn’t think I was an addict,” said Ortiz, who previously had been convicted for dealing heroin. “I have three daughters with three different mothers. In order to be there for them, I have to be in the right state of mind.”
That state of mind is being shaped in a stand-alone unit at the all-male facility, which houses more than 1,000 prisoners who have received sentences up to 2½ years long or have been detained until trial.
DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF
Inmate Edwin Ortiz said he takes the STOP rules seriously.
Although Ortiz’s cell has only a tiny sliver of natural light and a toilet without a seat, he and his STOP colleagues have more privileges than many other inmates.
There is more freedom of movement, for example, and there is a weight room. The inmates live in single-bed cells, instead of being double-bunked. But with those benefits comes strict responsibility. Classes cannot be missed, and instructors and other inmates must be respected.
Otherwise, a prisoner can be discharged from the program.
Ortiz said he takes the rules seriously. He pointed to a legal pad, where he had written this goal for the day: “Eliminate the negative and destructive people in my life. Just to keep my circle small and positive.”
The workload is daunting and immersive. Classes and meetings stretch over 12 hours — from about8 a.m. to 8 p.m. three days a week — and about eight hours on three other days. From discussions about anxiety, to coping strategies, to the framework of addiction, the inmates are exposed to the “why” of their behavior as well as the “how” of change.
At its core, the program insists on accountability.
Peter Kosciusko, the facility’s director of substance-abuse programs, said part of his job is to judge whether applicants truly want to change, and to weed out inmates who simply want better living conditions.
“I want to see the desperation and motivation,” said Kosciusko, who designed STOP in 2006.
David McCarthy, a Leominster hair stylist who completed the program and has been released, said he knows desperation.
“I was a miserable SOB,” said McCarthy, whose journey led him to crippling addiction and crimes to feed his drug habit. “The God’s honest truth is you have to be honest with yourself, but most people won’t do that. We don’t want anything jammed down our throats except for the poison.”
STOP changed that outlook dramatically. McCarthy said he remained at the jail for two extra months solely to complete the program. Its educational benefit is pivotal, he said, but so is the empathy that inmates receive.
“This is the first encounter they’ve ever had with an adult who didn’t tell them what a piece of crap they are,” McCarthy said.
The respect seems to be returned. At a meeting with Evangelidis, the inmates sat rapt and attentive as the sheriff asked how many believed they might relapse if they did not take the program.
DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF
Nearly all the STOP inmates in a discussion with group leaders raised their hands when they were asked if they had ever used heroin.
Every arm — white, black, brown, and most of them tattooed — was lifted.
“Being in this environment, everyone is considered family,” said one middle-age inmate who asked that his name not be used. “It’s one addict helping another addict. You realize you can tell your story, that you can shed a tear.”
Elsewhere in the jail, he said, “people will prey on that.”
Within the walls of the STOP building, the tough-guy persona has been softened with an acceptance that change is not only possible, but long overdue. It’s an attitude that means a former gang member like Stevenson, bespectacled and quiet, can lay back on his bunk and digest a self-help book by Dr. Phil.
There are no guarantees, but it’s a start.
“We can only give you the tools,” Evangelidis told the group, “and then it’s up to you.”
DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF
David McCarthy, a STOP program graduate, cut a customer’s hair in a Worcester salon.