By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Northborough – As soon as the school year is over, Mike Gorman, the director of facilities for Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS), starts the lengthy, involved task of cleaning and taking care of tasks and repairs to prepare the school for the next year. Mindful of tight budgets, where just about every penny is spoken for, he and his staff must pick and choose what can be done and what must wait. But thanks to the Community Service program run by Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis’s office, thousands of dollars of labor was recently performed, at no cost to the school, by minimum security inmates.
Recently a crew spent some time at Algonquin Regional High School helping to do some much needed painting. Gorman noted that the inmates, who he described as polite, friendly and hard-working, did an excellent job.
“We have limited resources, of course, so it’s great to have them here to do some of the things that otherwise wouldn’t get done,” he said.
“We have probably saved $6-$8,000 over the two weeks they are here, if you take into account what we would have to pay contractors at the prevailing wage,” he added.
Evangelidis said that so far in the seven years his office has overseen the program, it is estimated that municipalities and nonprofits have saved approximately $7 million.
The program is very selective as to who qualifies for a work crew, Evangelidis stressed; only about 20 out of the 1,200 who are incarcerated be selected. Criteria includes the inmates must be classified as “minimum risk” and that they have not committed any gun-related offenses.
“Only our best inmates qualify,” he said. “They have earned their way into this program.”
On a job site, they work under the watchful eyes of officers from the sheriff’s department at all times. And if they are at a place such as at a school, all personnel, including any day camps, are notified.
The benefits of crews working on projects go both ways, Evangelidis said.
“This gives the inmates a chance to prove to themselves they are worthy of dignity and self-respect. So often I hear them say, ‘I just want to make my family proud of me,’” he said. “Many of these men have never had structured jobs that require them to follow direction. This also allows them to also learn skills that will help them when they get out.”
Joseph Pare, one of the inmates working at the ARHS site, agreed with the sheriff.
“I am really grateful for this chance,” he said. “This helps me turn what has happened in my life into a positive. I’m happy to do something constructive and it lets me learn skills I can use when I get out.”
For more information on the program, contact the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office at 508-854-1938.