Grant helps sheriff’s office launch inmate-support program
By Michael Hartwell
FITCHBURG — The phrase of the day at Friday’s press conference in the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office was “smart on crime.”
The sheriff’s office just received a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to help inmates re-enter society without falling back into a life of crime, the largest such grant the county has ever received.
The Enhanced Re-entry Program grant was matched with $375,000 from The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts and $421,580 from the sheriff’s office to create a $1.5 million program.
Speaking at the press conference, Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis said the program will get to the root of the problem by helping inmates with problems that lead them back to crime, like substance abuse and mental-health problems.
“We can be tough on crime, but we have to be smart on crime,” Worcester Country Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis said
during a press conference announcing a federal $750,000 grant to help inmates re-enter society.
“We have people that need to be put in prison, put behind bars and incarcerated,” said Evangelidis. “But we also understand that warehousing inmates doesn’t work. We understand that we can be tough on crime, but we have to be smart on crime.”
Citing figures from the Massachusetts Department of Correction, he said it costs nearly $46,000 to house an inmate in Massachusetts for one year. No average cost of government response to a crime was given, but he said police, legal and court fees can total more than $100,000 for just one breaking and entering crime. That doesn’t include the intangible costs to society, such as the human cost, he said.
Almost half of Massachusetts offenders returning to prison within three years of their release and Evangelidis said the grant will allow them to target inmates for recidivism prevention the day they arrive. He said about 90 percent are hooked on drugs or alcohol.
“The answer isn’t building bigger jails, No, it’s getting smart on crime,” said Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. “This grant will do just that.”
Evangelidis and Early gave U.S. Rep.
POSITIVE STEPS: As Worcester Country Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis looks on, Worcester County inmate Jim Ohop Jr. paints the floor in a bathroom at the New Patriots Veteran Outreach Center in Fitchburg on Thursday.
Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, credit for helping Worcester have one of seven sheriff’s offices in the nation to receive the grant.
“This is a community that is tough on crime, but being tough on crime also means being smart about it,” said McGovern. “It makes absolutely no sense to house somebody in jail for a period of time only to have them leave and return. We’ve got to find new and innovative ways to do this better.”
In an interview after the press conference, Evangelidis said instead of the mere minutes they spend evaluating incoming inmates, the re-entry program will allow them to spend days seeing what their needs are and then put them into programs designed to treat any substance-abuse problems or psychological problems.
From left, Jan Yost, president and CEO of The Health Foundation of Central Mass.; Diane Gould, president and CEO
of Advocates Inc.; Worcester Country Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis; U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern; and Worcester County
District Attorney. Joseph D. Early Jr. join for a photo Friday during the announcement of grant funds for inmate
It will also help them get education and vocational training.
“Anything that they need, we’re going to now be able to better identify and better offer,” he said.
Once released, the program will help them transition into community programs, as well as follow and track their progress. That will allow them to figure out what is working and where the program needs to be tweaked.
Evangelidis said their goal is to lower recidivism by 50 percent in the next five years.
Worcester Country Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis, right, talks with New Patriots Veteran Outreach Center Co-Chairmen Earl Marshall, left, and John Lyle during his visit Thursday.