Throughout Berkshire County, the Sheriff’s Community Service Work Crews save communities, schools and nonprofit agencies thousands of dollars each year, while also teaching inmates valuable work skills that can be put into play after their release.
“They get a tremendous sense of pride in what they’ve accomplished,” said Doug Malins, president of the SIOGA Club in Pittsfield, one of the beneficiaries of more than 3,000 man hours of Community Service inmate labor countywide in 2007.
The list of Sheriff’s Community Service projects in 2007 stretches the length of Berkshire County.
In North Adams, inmate crews painted and cleaned the National Guard Armory, and did extensive painting, repair and cleanup at the Spitzer Senior Center.
In Cheshire, crews aided the Sheriff’s business partner, Cheshire Elementary School, with painting, repairs and ground work.
Efforts in Lee included extensive cleanup, repair and painting at Sandy Beach, plus work in the town cemetery.
Projects in other communities included cleanup and painting at the Berkshire Scenic Railway in Lenox, hydrant painting for the Stockbridge Water Department, installation and removal of snow fences in Richmond and cemetery cleanup and painting in Dalton.
Among the more extensive of the many Pittsfield projects has been work at St. Joseph Central High School. There, inmates removed 21 large heating units, each about 7 or 8 feet long and weighing about 550 pounds, and loaded them into trucks for disposal. Also, they did extensive painting of ceilings, walls and doorways and removed old lockers.
School officials weren’t the only ones who praised the Sheriff’s contributions and recognized the value of the Community Service program to the inmates.
“The Sheriff’s support has meant an awful lot to us,” said Malins, whose SIOGA club has worked with volunteer labor to open its new facility on Linden Street to serve those who want to address their addictive behavior. Inmate crews have dismantled an old pizza parlor around which the new building was framed. There has been a lot of carpentry work, laying out walls, bracing and framing.
“They’ve saved me about eight months of work,” Malins said. “I have volunteer work parties on Saturdays, and maybe two guys show up. You can’t get a lot accomplished that way.”
The emphasis of Community Service is to teach job skills, and Malins said, “They’ve exceeded my estimation of their capabilities. They knuckle down and get to work.” Several, he said, have come back and volunteered after their release.
“They’re about the finest bunch of young men I’ve dealt with,” Malins said of the inmate crews. “They thank me for allowing them to come to work. That’s a rarity.”