Opinion: Let's vote for competence, not cruelty

Aug 8, 2022

To the editor:

For John Macedonio of Somerset, bleeding heart liberals coddling criminals has caused a surge in crime and the only solution is for "the one person" he trusts — Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson — to "punish" prisoners behind bars. The thing is, between 2020 and 2021 overall crime in Massachusetts actually declined by 11.4%.

But even if Mr. Macedonio had checked, sheriffs still can't patrol or arrest. They don't charge people with crimes. They don't prosecute people. They don't determine sentences in a court of law. And a majority of those in county jails are simply awaiting trial — presumed innocent until found guilty by a judge or jury. Furthermore, a sheriff's job is not to "punish" prisoners. An appropriate punishment is determined after conviction in a Court of Law. Not by a sheriff.

In fact, a Massachusetts sheriff's only job is custody and control of those jailed. And judging by the large number of civil rights cases Sheriff Hodgson has lost, he can't even do that very well. Whenever he's been caught red-handed breaking a law or violating someone's Constitutional rights -- and that's with considerable regularity -- Hodgson whines that his political opponents are out to get him. Of course, Hodgson's heart is not really in the job he was elected to do as much as in galavanting all over the country, rubbing elbows with white supremacists or shilling for recognized hate groups.

So, sure, there are plenty of "political opponents" who want to get rid of this political miscreant. Hodgson's recklessness and patronage schemes have already cost Bristol County and the Commonwealth millions. Bristol County doesn't need a year more of a mean-spirited college dropout with national political aspirations in a county office. What we do need is a professional qualified to care for, treat and rehabilitate people in jail.

Mr. Macedonio is also wrong about another thing. We are not safer with a cruel jailer with no interest in rehabilitation. We are safest when those awaiting trial in Bristol County for overwhelmingly drug-related crimes have a chance to turn their lives around, kick a habit, learn a skill, deal with trauma, or work on themselves to restore trust with their families. And the families don't need to be tortured along with the inmate with usurious commissary and phone charges.

Sure, making life as miserable as possible for inmates — which has made Bristol County jails #1 in inmate suicides — may appeal to some voters. But it's a cruel and ignorant strategy.

On September 6th voters have a chance to choose a Democratic candidate for sheriff. Paul Heroux has an advanced degree in corrections, has worked in corrections, and as mayor of Attleboro oversees a police department. Heroux is the best of three Democratic challengers.

On Sept. 6, and again on Nov. 8, let's vote for competence, not cruelty. Choose Paul Heroux for Bristol County sheriff.

David Ehrens,