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By Jennifer Robert/Quabog Current

Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, right, talks with an inmate participating in the community service  program at BES. The BES crew is under the supervision of Officer Mike Brennan, left.

Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, right, talks with an inmate participating in the community service
program at BES. The BES crew is under the supervision of Officer Mike Brennan, left.

Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis is in the midst of his third year running the inmate community service program and recently spent the day visiting work sites to check in on the work being done and with inmates involved in the program.

One stop on his tour was the Brookfield Elementary School (BES), where a crew has been busy painting the walls and cleaning the carpets. The program provides cost-free labor to non-profit organizations that have projects they are looking to have completed. After submitting a letter of interest to utilize inmates for the work, the sheriff’s office visits the organization to evaluate the project. If it is suitable, all the requesting organization has to provide is the materials for the project and lunch for the crew on their work days.

“It is really a win-win program,” Evangelidis said. “We used to say that it would save towns thousands of dollars, but now this program allows for projects to be completed that otherwise wouldn’t be with all the cuts to local budgets. It also helps turn inmate’s lives around.”

The program allows the opportunity for minimum security  inmates who have been convicted of non-violent offenses and  are within the last six months of  their sentence to give something  back to the community. Evangelidis said that many of the participants are inmates who have  been convicted of crimes due to  their behavior while involved  with drugs and alcohol and this program gives them an opportunity for a fresh start.

“This is a good way to transition back into the community,”  said Kim Roy, director of external affairs with the sheriff’s office. Evangelitis also said that  participants of the program were  less likely to reoffend. While out  working, the crew is supervised  by an armed officer. The crew working in Brookfield currently is supervised by Officer Mike  Brennan, who has been a crew  supervisor for two and one-half  years.

“Inside [the prison] guys  don’t always want to listen but  out here they are more willing  to communicate,” Brennan said.  “We share ideas on how to do  things and those conversations  make it easier to offer them advice and make them more willing to listen to things I say to  them.”

The inmates agree that  the program has advantages.  George, who has been involved  in the program for about four  months, said he found out about  the program from other inmates and wanted to earn the right to participate.

“This gives me an opportunity to get back on my feet,” he  said. “It is a good way to give  back to my community. The  program is awesome.” Another  member of the crew, who is due  to be released from prison this  Friday, said that being involved  in the program has given him a  sense of community and is much  better than “being behind the  fence.”

Kathleen Hosterman, principal of BES, has been using  the community service program  for eight years and is extremely  pleased with the work done.

“They are so careful,” she  said. “They taped everything,  every little corner. They were  extremely professional. This  would have cost me thousands  of dollars otherwise.”

Hosterman said that this year  she was able to get the crew for  two weeks, rather than the one  she normally gets, and that the  extra week allowed for not only  painting of the hallways and  carpet cleaning but also a revamping of a room that will be  used for a new special education  program that will debuting this  upcoming school year.

“Not all jail news is bad  news,” Evangelitis said. “These  people are trying to turn their  lives around and we are trying  to show them there is a better  way for them. I like to see them  here working, but I don’t want  to see them again in the future.”