Opinion: Time for a change at the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office

Sep 30, 2022

To the editor:

Sheriff Thomas Hodgson is asking for six more years. If elected, this would bring his tenure to 31 years at the end of his 5th full term in office. We’re talking nearly a third of a century! 

That’s a big ask from such a controversial and polarizing figure. 

By contrast, Democratic challenger Paul Heroux has no ambition to be sheriff-for-life and has pledged to move on after two terms.

This aligns Heroux squarely with large majorities from both parties who support term limits. Voters know deep down that extended control of an office by a single individual is asking for trouble. It‘s the perfect breeding ground for cronyism, patronage and poor morale–problems that have long plagued criminal justice agencies with no turnover at the top. Entrenched leaders with too much money at their disposal and too much time on their hands may engage in “mission creep” to the neglect of their sworn duties (think Hodgson’s offer to help build Trump’s wall or his hell-bent pursuit of immigrants). Over time any organization deprived of fresh ideas and new leadership grows sluggish and stagnates–like a swamp.  It would be naive to think that, after a spate of warning signs, the Hodgson administration is immune from these ills.  

In fact, Sheriff Hodgson’s administration has long been plagued by scandal and controversy. High suicide and recidivism rates are a matter of record. I’ve spoken personally with dozens of incarcerated people released on bail from Hodgsons’s jails who describe substandard housing, health and dietary conditions, as well as scant support for the drug addicted or those with mental illnesses. Low staff morale is an open secret. 

Unfortunately, oversight of Massachusetts sheriffs is weak, leaving it up to the voters to judge whether or not performance standards are being met. That and Massachusetts’ six year term for sheriffs (the longest in the nation) make opportunities for accountability at the ballot box few and far between. On Nov. 8, the voters of Bristol County have the rare opportunity to term limit Hodgson and open a new, brighter chapter at the office of Bristol County Sheriff. 

Help drain the swamp at 400 Faunce Corner Road. Vote for Paul Heroux for Bristol County Sheriff.

Harry Bichsel,