BY CHARLES KELLEHER HARRIS
AUBURN — A project that would have cost more than $10,000 for the Auburn Fire and Rescue Department ended up only costing a fraction of that thanks to Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis’ Community Service Program.
On Friday, Oct. 18, Evangelidis visited the Auburn Fire Station on Auburn Street. There, four inmates from the Worcester House of Corrections were painting the men’s locker room. Earlier inmates from the Community Service Program painted most of the fire station’s garage.
“I’ve found that a lot of communities don’t have the money to complete projects like this,” Evangelidis said. “The Auburn Fire Department just doesn’t have the resources.”
Auburn Fire and Rescue Department Chief Stephen M. Coleman Jr. agreed.
“What would have taken the on-duty fire personnel three months to do, they did in two weeks,” Coleman said of the inmates. “This is an incredible resource.”
Since 2010, the Community Service Program has saved almost a quarter of a million dollars for communities and non-profit organizations all across the county.
Inmates perform duties such as landscaping, maintenance and clean up. There is also a ‘Stick- n-Pick’ program through which inmates clean up litter at various locations. Not just any inmate can participate in the program, however. “These inmates must be pre-qualified,” explained Evangelidis. “Not everybody is eligible. These are the best inmates. They earn their way into this program.” Evangelidis went on to say that inmates selected were well behaved, trustworthy and generally serving short sentences.
“As many know the recidivism rate [for inmates] is at 50 percent,” he said. “But these guys are not likely to re-offend. This is a big part of preparing them to reenter the community.” Evangelidis sends out up to four crews of inmates daily to various locations in Worcester County. Each crew is overseen by an officer.
Participating inmates also see the benefits of the Community Service Program.
“This program gives me a chance to learn new skills,” said inmate Matt McCort. “I enjoy it. Some of these things would never get done. We make that possible.”
“I’m happy every day,” said Ramone Aviles. “I like helping people and getting out of the jail.”
Inmate Alex Whitney concurred, adding, “It is an opportunity to get out, be productive and give back.”
Auburn Fire and Rescue Department Lieutenant Justin Brigham, who has worked with the inmate crews more than once, said that he found the inmates generally hard working and affable. “These guys come in and they are very polite,” Brigham said.
“I sat down and had lunch with them and they are great to talk to.” According to Evangelidis, the amount of inmates involved in the Community Service Program ha tripled since 2010. In order to receive the services of the Sheriff’s Office Community Service Program, municipalities or non-profit organizations simply have to write to Evangelidis’ office and request help.
“The towns and organizations obviously benefit a great deal,” Evangelidis said. “[And] the inmates enjoy being in the pro- gram. Ultimately it is a win-win.”
For more information about the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office Community Service Program visit www.worcestercountysheriff.com.