Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux, the Democrat nominee for Bristol County Sheriff, made a two-hour appearance on WBSM's SouthCoast Tonight to discuss his campaign to unseat longtime Republican Sheriff Tom Hodgson and to take calls from the audience.

Heroux began the discussion with the audience by addressing his record and policies on law enforcement. Heroux said that because he is a Democrat, he is often assumed to be anti-police, but during his time as Mayor of Attleboro he has expanded the Attleboro Police Department.

"I've tripled the police training budget," he said. "We've created a traffic unit. That means we hired more police officers to staff that traffic unit. We created a cyber unit, and the cyber unit actually just busted a ring of people who were doing financial exploitation of seniors."

Though Heroux has said throughout his campaign that the sheriff's primary role in local government is to oversee the correctional facilities in the county, he committed to maintaining the law enforcement operations that the Bristol County Sheriff's Office currently engages in if he is elected.

"So the job of the sheriff is to run a county jail, that's the main job," Heroux said. "A sheriff is not a police officer, but to have working relationships with local, state, and federal law enforcement organization is necessary."

"So we'll continue working with [law enforcement], absolutely," he said.

However, Heroux maintained that immigration enforcement is not the job of the sheriff. He said that there is no statutory authority for the sheriff's office engage in federal immigration matters unless they are contracted to do so with the federal government, as the Bristol County Sheriff's office was until May of 2021, when the Biden Administration canceled their agreement after an investigation of an incident that occurred in May of 2020.

"Hodgson had a contract and because of poor management he lost that contract," Heroux said. "He said it's because of politics, but name for me a bunch of other Republicans that lost their contract. They didn't. It was poorly managed."

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"The job is care, custody, control, and rehabilitation," Heroux added.

Despite his criticisms of Hodgson's focus on immigration, Heroux didn't commit to refusing a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) if he were to be elected sheriff. He said it would depend on what the agreement was, the population it would impact, and the amount of resources and staffing the federal government would provide if they entered into the agreement.

Throughout the campaign, Heroux has repeatedly criticized Hodgson for Bristol County's high rate of recidivism, which is the rate at which convicted offenders re-offend.

Heroux, a former corrections administrator in both the Philadelphia prison system and the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, took issue with Hodgson's claim that it is impossible for county jails to measure recidivism.

"That's not true," he said. "I actually did it when I worked in Philadelphia. I looked at 235,000 admissions and releases over a seven-year period of time. Essex County here in Massachusetts is doing their own recidivism reports. We can and should measure what our rate of reoffending is."

When asked what he would do differently from Sheriff Hodgson to curb Bristol County's high rate of inmate suicides following the recent suicide of Adam Howe, a high-profile detainee who asphyxiated himself on toilet paper, Heroux said that he would take a two-pronged approach.

"Number one is change that culture so it gets away from being a culture of hopelessness," he said. "So it's really focusing on discharge planning to give people a chance to get back on their feet."

Heroux said the second prong was strengthening the protocols for someone who is categorized as seriously mentally ill or is considered a harm to themselves. He said a person that falls under those classifications should be on a 24 hour "eyeball" watch, rather than being checked on in 15 minute intervals, as Howe was.

Heroux has spoken out in favor of term limits for executive office and is currently serving in his third and final term as Attleboro's mayor due to a self-imposed term limit. He said that Hodgson, a 25-year incumbent, has remained in office for too long. Heroux has committed to two six-year terms as sheriff if he is elected.

"I don't want be sheriff for life, I don't want be mayor for life," he said. "Hodgson definitely wants to be (sheriff) for life and I don't think that's healthy. I think it's definitely time for change. I've knocked on a lot of doors and a lot of other people feel that way as well."

Listen to Heroux's full interview with Chris McCarthy and Marcus Ferro on WBSM's SouthCoast Tonight:

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