Sheriff proposes sending inmates to help with Harvey cleanup

WJAR

BRISTOL COUNTY, Mass. (WFLA) —A sheriff who runs a jail in Massachusetts has made another controversial offer—sending county jail inmates to Texas to help clean up damage from Hurricane Harvey.

Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson made headlines in January when he offered to send inmates to the U.S.-Mexico border to help President Trump build a wall. Now he wants to send prisoners to Texas to help Harvey victims.

“We’ve already heard that there’s not going to be enough carpenters to help rebuild Houston so why not have inmates who want to take advantage of the opportunity in a rehabilitative setting to go there,” said Sheriff Hodgson.

The suggestion is raising eyebrows across Massachusetts. Rep. Alan Silvia (D-Mass.), who is the vice chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security calls the idea ridiculous.

“This has to rank with up there with the first and second most ridiculous suggestions. The first being sending the inmates to the Mexican border to build a wall. I can’t even believe that he would think that one single inmate would travel from the Commonwealth to Texas,”  Rep. Silvia told local affiliate WJAR.

Sheriff Hodgson said those who would participate in the program would be in pre release status, meaning they are getting ready to re-enter their own communities. These inmates would not have any active warrants or problems inside the prison and would have to follow strict criteria.

At the moment, state law prevents inmates from being sent to work anywhere outside of New England. A bill allowing this to happen is currently working its way through the legislature, but many doubt it will pass.

The sheriff would need the approval of FEMA, the National Sheriff’s Association, Governor Charlie Baker’s Office and other sheriffs involved.  The inmates would also need to volunteer for this work. Nobody would be forced to go.

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