“In many ways, 2021 was our finest hour,” Evangelidis said. “When so many had to step back, our office stepped up.”
Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, the Sheriff’s Office continues to safely run the facility with minimal impact to inmate visitation and internal programming. The ultimate goal of the department is having those who leave less likely to re-offend than when they arrive.
A strong focus is being placed on both the physical and mental health of the inmate population. With the June 2021 opening of the new $24 million onsite medical facility, inmates are now able to receive comprehensive treatment for detoxification, dental work, mental health, substance-use, co-occurring disorders and other medical concerns.
This year, Evangelidis will prioritize the expansion of inmate education programs such as the culinary program in partnership with Quinsigamond Community College. Throughout this 12-week course, inmates receive 180 hours of hands-on training and certificates in allergy awareness, food equipment, and ServSafe.
Through completing these programs, inmates learn valuable life skills to help re-enter the workforce and reduce recidivism rates. Other educational programs offered are the financial literacy program, in partnership with Worcester State University’s Enactus group, and OpporTUNEity songwriting program, with Anna Maria College.
In 2022, the sheriff plans to reintroduce the Inmate Community Service program and begin working on new service projects. Since 2011, the program has tripled in size and provided more than $8million in taxpayer savings by providing cost-free labor by minimum-security inmates who have been convicted of a non-violent, non-firearms offenses, and have an exemplary record while incarcerated.
Dormant due to the pandemic, the program has helped hundreds of non-profits and municipalities with thousands of service projects throughout the county.
Outside the jail, the WCSO Community Outreach Team remains active distributing more than 3,600 new winter coats to underserved communities, thousands of pounds of organic produce, and their fourth round of personal protective equipment (PPE) care packages to all 60 senior centers in the county. Care packages include: hand sanitizer, mask, file of life cards, and free house number sign ups.
“It’s been an honor to be sheriff in a place where my family’s lived for generations,” Evangelidis said, adding, “I’m proud of the hard work done at the jail, and throughout the community, on a daily basis and look forward to continuing to serve the people of Worcester County.”