In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts including Worcester County, nearly 50% of offenders return to prison within three years of their release. High recidivism rates often translate into a scenario of more crimes committed in our communities as well as a revolving door in and out of incarceration. Upon release many offenders reenter society with few resources and little direction, the impact on public safety and public health is enormous. According to the Massachusetts Department of Correction, the annual amount to house an inmate in Massachusetts is nearly $46,000; add in the additional expense of police, legal and court fees and the financial impact of one crime can exceed $100,000. The human cost that often accompanies these crimes is incalculable.
With the goal of safer communities and increased public safety by reducing the growing rate of recidivism, Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis, United States Congressman James McGovern, District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr., Dr. Jan Yost of The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts along with their community task force partners announced at a joint press conference held on January 23rd at the Worcester County Jail & House of Correction, the Award of a $750,000 “BJA – Second Chance Grant”, the largest Federal Re-entry Grant in the history of Worcester County. One of only seven awarded nationwide by the United States Department of Justice, the grant was matched by contributions from the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office as well as the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts.
“Investments in evidence-based reentry programs like this increase public safety and reduce recidivism,“ said Congressman Jim McGovern. “The fact that this was one of only seven federal awards made nationally points to the strength of the applicant and the commitment of the Task Force Partners.”
“The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts is very pleased to expand our partnership with the Worcester County Sheriff ‘s Office by providing $375,000 toward the match required by the Second Chance Act “Enhanced Reentry Program” grant. This is the largest match the Foundation has made in our 15 years of grant making, and as such, we trust it conveys our confidence in Sheriff Evangelidis’ leadership and in the value of reducing recidivism,” stated Janice B. Yost, president of the Foundation. “Specifically, the Foundation’s funds will enable Advocates Inc. to provide post-release services involving connections to housing, employment, and healthcare/addiction recovery, and also provide for an evaluation of the program by researchers at Brandeis University,” Yost explained.
To further combat recidivism, the Second Chance Grant will provide funding for the creation of a new “Admission & Orientation Unit” for the over 6,ooo new admissions each year incarcerated at the Worcester County Jail & House of Correction. The new “Admission & Orientation Unit” will immediately upon arrival determine the criminogenic & mental health needs of an individual as well as the risk to reoffend from which a reentry service plan will be initially developed creating an effective multi disciplinary approach to incarceration.
In addition to the comprehensive admission/orientation process, the grant will also focus on the recidivism rate of a minimum of 75 medium to high risk offenders and will directly address their risk to reoffend prior to re-entry. The Second Chance Grant in partnership with Brandeis University, will study the implementation of these re-entry programs to ensure the most effective use of tax payer dollars as well as their efficacy and outcomes. Focusing on a 50 percent reduction in recidivism over 5 years , the BJA – Second Chance Act Grant will also provide substance abuse treatment, vocational training, cognitive-behavioral therapy, mental health counseling, anger management & education.
“This is a great effort to reduce the numbers in our jail by truly making a difference. This program, along with the Worcester Re-entry Initiative Program, which the Sheriff is also a partner on, are great ideas to save taxpayers money while allowing inmates to become productive members of society.” said Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.
“As Sheriff my over riding goal is to protect the public safety by keeping criminals off the streets and to do whatever possible to make sure inmates are less likely to recommit a crime upon their release.” Evangelidis continued “We need to be both tough on crime and smart on crime. This grant will provide us the resources to tackle the issue of recidivism head on.” said Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis.
“We would like to thank Congressman James McGovern, Dr. Jan Yost and The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts as well as all of our community task force partners for their public safety partnership with the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office in this endeavor.” said Evangelidis.