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  Inmate Oliver Ramos chips brush at the
  Worcester Ecotarium as part of the
  Worcester County Sheriff’s inmate
  community service program.
  (Sam Bonacci)




By: Sam Bonacci,

November 18, 2013


An ongoing partnership between the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office and the Worcester Ecotarium has resulted in 55 acres of landscaping, over 100 volunteer hours and a sense of accomplishment for the inmates in the work crews.


“It helps me out a lot to integrate myself so that when I get out I am in the motion of dealing with people again,” said 24-year-old Oliver Ramos, who will be released in January after a two-year sentence for larceny. “Work release is a big step … it gives me some drive so that when I get out I can find a job.”


The inmate community service program takes non-violent, non-sex offender inmates and places them in one of four work crews that go out five days a week. The crews work with non-profits and municipalities throughout Worcester County. Work crews have been visiting the Ecotarium since September.


Lew Evangelidis, who took on the role of Worcester County Sheriff in 2011, expanded the work program four-fold; he has completed 1,000 work projects and saving over $4.5 million since he became sheriff.


It is a way to re-habilitate the prisoners while also assisting area non-profits, he said.
“Name another government program that saves millions and turns people’s lives around. Usually we spend millions and wonder if we get anything for it,” said Evangelidis.


“Just walking the perimeter, now it looks so much better already,” said Ecotarium President Brad Cox. “There’s a lot more that we have planned.”


Non-profits like the Ecotarium rely upon volunteers of all kinds, said Cox. The prison crew’s help was essential during the clean up 1,500 carved pumpkins after their recent Great Pumpkin Festival in October. During the festival, 60 volunteers from area high schools assisted with the festivities.


“(Volunteers) really give us an opportunity to provide our visitors with a much richer experience,” said Cox of the event where volunteers were available for face painting and other activities.
Worcester County Sheriff
Lew Evangelidis talks with
Ecotarium President Joseph Cox.