Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson Responds to Poll, Opponent Criticism
Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson has been in office since 1997, but his most recent term has arguably garnered him the most headlines. From fostering a strong relationship with former President Donald Trump to being rebuked by President Joe Biden, Sheriff Hodgson has been firmly entrenched in the national spotlight more than ever during his current six-year term.
Prior to being appointed to the sheriff vacancy in 1997 by then-Governor Bill Weld, Hodgson was Deputy Superintendent of Investigations at the Bristol County Sheriff's Office while also serving on the New Bedford City Council as a Councillor at Large. He also served as a Maryland Police Lieutenant for Special Operations. He is now seeking a fifth term as sheriff.
After running unopposed in 2016, Hodgson, the most recognizable sheriff in the Commonwealth based on a recent poll, has drawn three Democratic challengers so far in this years contest: Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux, Somerset Police Chief George McNeil, and Attorney Nick Bernier, all of whom have joined me on-air to discuss their platform and levy their criticisms against Hodgson's administration.
Recently, Hodgson came on the program respond to these criticisms and make his case for reelection. First, though, I asked the sheriff why he thinks he has been so well known compared to his counterparts in other counties across the Commonwealth. He credited his reported visibility to the work he and his office has done over his two-decades-plus in office.
"I think it has everything to do with the fact that when I took this job, I told people that I was going to do everything I could to maximize the benefits not only to be the people who are incarcerated in our place, but importantly to the people who are paying the freight to run these jails," Hodgson said. "To make sure that we were doing whatever we could to get people a return on their investment through work programs, programs we do for senior citizens, our youth program that has been looked at model in the nation recently. I think all of these things have maybe contributed to that, and some maybe recognizing me may have different opinions of my point of view."
The most common criticism levied against Hodgson by his opponents is that his office isn't focusing enough time and attention to reducing recidivism, which is a convicted offender's likelihood to reoffend. Hodgson responded that the formula used to measure recidivism is under constant scrutiny from both sheriff's departments and the state's Executive Office of Public Safety.
"Recidivism has to be measured by another conviction," Hodgson said. "Then it has to be monitored over a period of time of years. The Executive Office of Public Safety gets it. The sheriffs get it, we're all in the same boat trying to find a formula that really makes sense and works to find the accuracy."
"But we measure our programs. We measure our grants, by law we measure our grants and the output and success of those grants," he said. "But ultimately, in the end, we provide the programs but it's up to the inmate to be accountable to get involved in the program, be serious about getting benefits from the program and utilizing them so that they can get on with a trajectory and a life that's responsible,"
I asked Sheriff Hodgson about whether or not his office would release the surveillance footage of the the May 1, 2020 conflict at the former BCSO ICE detention facility, in which Attorney General Maura Healey concluded the BCSO violated the civil rights of the inmates being held and lead to the Biden Administration cancelling the BCSO's contract with ICE.
Hodgson spoke to the national accreditation his office had received from the Department of Homeland Security under previous administrations and suggested that his office would release the video along with evidence that Healey's investigation was a partisan hit job.
"When we finally release what we have, we can show how the ACLU and the Attorney General, and (DHS Secretary Alejandro) Mayorkas were all in concert together," Hodgson said. "And we're going to show how this was a political sham."
In light of the recent announcement that the Commonwealth's Department of Corrections is closing MCI-Cedar Junction – known colloquially as "Walpole" – which was built in 1955, and MCI-Framingham, which was built in 1877, both due to their dated infrastructure, I asked Sheriff Hodgson about his continued support for keeping Ash Street Jail operating. Ash Street Jail was built in 1888, and before that sat the New Bedford House of Correction built in 1828. There have been calls to close Ash Street Jail as early as 1937.
"It is one of the safest quietest, cleanest jails in the United States," Hodgson said. "I put in two emergency exits that they didn't have. I revamped the entire place, put a sprinkler system in. If others just continued to let their (facilities) continue to be the way they were and not bring them up to safety standards, I can't speak to that, but I can speak about ours. You can walk in and literally eat off the floors."
We also spoke about his relationship with former President Trump, what he thinks the sheriff's role should be with respect to immigration enforcement, and what he described is a low morale not just among his employees but all sheriff's employees throughout the country.
You can listen to the full interview with Sheriff Hodgson here: