Inmates help Mashpee Tribe with shellfish project


Ernie Virgilio, left, and Joe Brait go over plans for a new shellfish incubator at the Mashpee Wampanoag’s Natural Resource Department facility and grounds. Virgilio has been hired as the tribe’s project manager and Brait is supervising the Barnstable County inmates working in the background. “We’d never be able to do this,” Virgilio said, referring to the importance of donated labor, “and stay within our $100,000 budget.” Brait’s far-ranging construction experience, meanwhile, has helped him navigate all manner of projects in his 18½ years with the Sheriff’s Office.

That’s county inmate Robert Parris cutting a piece of insulation, all part of the day’s work. Sun, no wind, and temperatures reaching into the high 50s probably made it one of the few remaining days suitable for extended outside work. The incubator will be known more technically as a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) facility. It operates in three stages: first, tiny shellfish are cleaned and incubated to size; next, the now middling-sized fish are bagged and transported to Cape waterways to continue their growth; then step three, where they are re-harvested at adult size, returned to the building for re-cleaning, and processed for sale.

Inmate Brian Kelley is busy here cutting a plank. Behind him is one end of a building that was used for shellfish cultivation. The dedicated construction and updated technology that comes with the new facility will enable the tribe to change out an antiquated system for one certain to produce more bountiful hauls. For starters oysters will be the shellfish of choice, but the HACCP facility can just as easily process quahogs, scallops, and clams.

Two inmates are busy reaching for the latest tools they’ll need – a level for the one on left, rope for the one at right. Project Manager Virgilio says hired construction crews will install plumbing and electrical work, but all structural and finished construction will be handled by inmates. Weather permitting, the HACCP building should be operationally ready by mid-January, Virgilio estimates.

Media release and photos furnished by Barnstable Sheriff’s Office



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