DARTMOUTH — Bristol County Sheriff Paul Heroux is writing local lawmakers to ask for $300,000 to fund a feasibility study on closing New Bedford's Ash Street Jail.

One of the oldest operating jails in the U.S., the Ash Street facility was opened in 1888 and costs more than $5 million per year to operate, according to a release from Heroux's office.

The sheriff had announced his plans to close the facility on WBSM's SouthCoast Tonight program in January.

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This week, Heroux sent letters to SouthCoast legislators asking for $300,000 to fund a feasibility study on closing the jail and moving its inmates to a renovated unit at the Bristol County House of Correction in Dartmouth.

He plans to rehab and use the former ICE detention center, which was shuttered in 2021 after the Department of Homeland Security terminated its agreement with the Sheriff's Office that allowed it to house federal immigrations detainees.

Although the sheriff described the Ash Street jail as "clean, safe and secure," he wrote, "it does not fit the needs of a modern corrections system focused on inmate rehabilitation while being responsible with taxpayers’ money."

Read Heroux's letter to State Senator Michael Rodrigues

"I urge you to please coordinate with the delegation to get a $300,000 line item in the budget to fund the first step in this process, a feasibility study by the state Department of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance," Heroux wrote lawmakers.

He said the 200,000 square foot jail has "outdated classrooms and limited space for treatment programs," among other issues, citing a belief that the move would benefit inmates' rehabilitation.

Due to savings in utility, maintenance and transportation costs, he added, "closing Ash Street and moving the operation to Dartmouth will quickly pay for itself."

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