Sheriff’s Community Work Program lauded as success in Marlborough
By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Marlborough – Like many municipalities, Marlborough finds itself struggling to find funding at times to pay for needed city services. This past summer, when work needed to be done to clean up two of the city’s parks, Mayor Arthur Vigeant turned to an unusual source to find manpower- the office of Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian.
Over the past year, the Community Work Program (CWP) run by Koutoujian’s office has sent crews composed of non-violent inmates near the end of their jail terms to areas throughout Metro West to work on municipal projects. Crews in Marlborough spent several days clearing weeds, vines and other debris from Ward Park and Stevens Park. According to Vigeant, this measure saved the city $5,000.
In a press conference held at Ward Park on Oct. 23 Vigeant and Koutoujian touted the partnership.
Vigeant noted that the day prior, it was discovered that new graffiti had been painted at Ward Park. As a result, his office sought to find a new location for the press conference.
“When the sheriff’s office learned of this, not only did they tell us they will take care of it…they were here the next day…this morning…getting rid of it because it was important to Marlborough to have parks that people can come to without the blight of graffiti everywhere,” he said.
Koutoujian praised Vigeant for his willingness to work with the CWP.
“Not many leaders take advantage of this opportunity,” he said. “But the mayor understands the ‘broken window theory.’ “
Letting graffiti and other acts of vandalism get out of hand only leads to more crime, he explained, which in turn then “affects the whole community.”
“The mayor knows the value of what we are doing for the community and the taxpayers,” he added.
Inmates who participate in the CWP are motivated to do so for several reasons, Koutoujian said.
Participation allowed them to get into a “work-a- day” mindset, which helps them when they re-enter society, he said. Often times, he noted, the inmates might often find they have a “hidden talent” such as painting.
City officials, including Police Chief Mark Leonard, have been working on other initiatives with the sheriff’s office, Vigeant said. Most police stations are not intended to house prisoners for lengthy periods, he noted; to do so is costly as well as a burden on the staff. To rectify this, Leonard is working with other local chiefs and Koutoujian’s office to develop a long-term regional lock-up plan, Vigeant said.
In the future, the city will be partnering with the sheriff’s office on two other programs, TRIAD and SafetyNet by Lojack.
TRIAD focuses on educating senior citizens so that they may avoid becoming victims of fraudulent scams and practices.
SafetyNet is a program that assists families who have either a child or a senior citizen with cognitive disabilities and is prone to wandering. Koutoujian explained that the child or senior wears a special bracelet on their arm or ankle. If that person then goes missing, police departments can track down the person via a special signal emitted from the bracelet.
“It finds people safer and sounder, and saves tax- payers money,” he said. “It provides a great deal of comfort.”
Vigeant said the city is in the process of developing the two programs with the sheriff’s office – more details will be announced soon.
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