Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis
Press Release from the Office of Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis
EVANGELIDIS OPPOSES MASS RELEASE OF INMATES
OUTLINES STEPS TAKEN BY MASSACHUSETTS SHERIFFS TO KEEP INMATE POPULATIONS
SAFE DURING COVID-19
West Boylston, MA – “As Sheriff of Worcester County, and in unanimous agreement with my fellow sheriffs, I strongly oppose the Emergency Petition calling for the mass release of incarcerated persons from Massachusetts prisons that is currently pending before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.” Said Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis.
“Filed by the Committee for Public Counsel Services and the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, this petition calls for the immediate mass release of Massachusetts prisoners relative to the COVID-19 pandemic. If approved, this would lead to a mass release of many dangerous criminals, posing an enormous threat to the public health and safety of our community-at-large. In addition, many will be returning to unstable environments. Sheriffs always prepare our inmate populations for successful release by focusing on housing, medical and programming needs. It is this step-down reentry process, as opposed to mass-release, that protects the public, victims of crimes and the inmates themselves.” Evangelidis continued.
“The Sheriffs, along with our District Attorney’s, local judicial authorities, the department of probation and defense attorneys are currently reviewing our inmate populations to determine if any individuals are appropriate for early release. Our local authorities are best positioned to determine what is in the best interest of the public health and safety of our community and the inmate. These decisions are based on the charges, criminal history, age and health of the inmate, as well as re-entry support networks available. “Any decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which would order the mass release of inmates as opposed to a case by case review, would not only jeopardize the public-at-large but in some cases, inmates themselves.” Said Evangelidis.
STEPS TAKEN BY MASSACHUSETTS SHERIFFS TO KEEP INMATE POPULATIONS SAFE DURING COVID-19:
The Massachusetts Sheriffs are committed to serving the communities they are sworn to protect. This responsibility includes the health and well-being of their justice-involved populations and the dedicated men and women on their teams of corrections professionals. Every sheriff sees it as their duty to ensure that the public safety and public health needs of all who live and work within their facilities are fully met. That responsibility only grows during global emergencies, and the sheriffs are meeting the COVID-19 pandemic head-on. The Massachusetts Sheriffs and their staff are working tirelessly to safely manage their staff and inmate populations and to curb the spread of COVID-19 to their county jails and houses of correction. They provide an exceptional level of care in their facilities, and are prepared for public health scenarios such as this. The sheriffs have implemented proactive and strategic steps to limit the transmission of COVID-19 including:
- Providing in-service training on infectious diseases and emergency preparedness for staff before, during and after this crisis.
- Deploying enhanced intake screening protocols to evaluate new arrivals for symptoms of COVID-19 and limit potential transmission.
- Providing a high level of medical care for all individuals while employing specific protocols when potential or confirmed cases of COVID-19 arise.
- Engagement with medical experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) to ensure that their medical practices are maximally effective and responsive to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Encouraging staff and their justice-involved populations to follow the CDC-recommended practices regarding handwashing, social distancing, continuous sanitizing of facilities and general transmission prevention. Signage has increased throughout the facilities to serve as a reminder of these practices.
- Enhancing screening of staff entering the facility.
- Temporarily suspending in-person visits for families and friends while enhancing alternative means of communication. This includes a range of options such as additional phone calls, mail services or, where available, increased access to text messaging and video conferencing.
- Working with the courts, enhancing videoconferencing and teleconferencing technology to ensure that an inmate’s access to the court is continued.
“At the Worcester County Jail & House of Correction, we have one 119 bed housing unit set aside in response to the COVID-19 crisis. All new non-symptomatic admissions to the Worcester County Correctional Facility are housed in the unit on an Observation Medical Watch, and monitored by medical for symptoms of COVID-19 for a period of fourteen (14) days. As a precaution, during the fourteen (14) day quarantine, new inmate movement is limited. These inmates are permitted out of the cell for a shower and phone use only. In addition, a separate housing unit has been designated for any inmate exhibiting signs or symptoms of COVID 19. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been placed into POD-D for officer safety. To allow all inmates to communicate with their family members, free phone calls are available. As of today, there are no confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 among the inmates at the Worcester County Jail & House of Correction.” Said Sheriff Evangelidis.