NEW BEDFORD — Local activist group Bristol County for Correctional Justice has announced its endorsement of Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux for Bristol County Sheriff.

Heroux, who just won reelection to his mayoral position for a third term in November, announced his candidacy for the sheriff's seat last month.

Current Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson has held the spot since 1997, and most recently ran unopposed for reelection in 2016.

BCCJ is one of a number of community and advocacy groups that have called for reforms to the county's correctional facilities, which have been known for high suicide rates since at least 2017.

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In January, Heroux joined Fall River attorney and former county prosecutor Nick Bernier in the race.

Bernier launched his campaign in late November, and has already drawn campaign donations from big names like State Sen. Diana DiZoglio, State Rep. Carole Fiola, and the Greater Southeastern Massachusetts Labor Council.

As Democrats, the pair will likely face off in the Sept. 6 primary before the winner takes on Hodgson in November.

Despite his long tenure as sheriff, Hodgson has recently become somewhat of a polarizing figure in Bristol County.

A staunch Republican and honorary chair of Donald Trump's reelection campaign in Massachusetts, he came under fire from state Attorney General Maura Healey in 2020 for allegedly violating the rights of immigration detainees at his Dartmouth facility.

Although Hodgson disputed her findings, the Department of Homeland Security later terminated its agreement with the sheriff's office to hold federal detainees after an investigation.

But he is starting off election season already miles ahead of his competitors in terms of resources.

According to data from the state's Office of Campaign and Political Finance, Hodgson's campaign has more than $290,000 at the ready, while Bernier has around $8,700 and Heroux just over $5,000.

BCCJ announced that its group of volunteers will help support Heroux's campaign.

“Mayor Heroux is an obvious choice of candidate for us for several reasons: he has previous experience in incarceration systems; he has a proven ability to win and; most importantly — he agrees with our views on the rehabilitation and humane treatment of those held in our jails," said BCCJ President Marlene Pollock.

A former state representative, Heroux holds a master’s degree in criminology and has worked in corrections in Philadelphia and Massachusetts.

“I am pleased to have the endorsement of BCCJ," he said. "BCCJ has been working hard for many years to show the many problems going on in the Bristol County jail system...They have been at the forefront of bringing attention to the many ways that the incumbent’s approach is not a modern approach to running a jail."

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