In Massachusetts, Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, currently serving his fourth term, pledged to send prisoners to help build a border wall between the United States and Mexico that President Donald Trump ordered on Jan. 25.
Two state legislators have recently filed bills that would limit his ability to do so.
A bill by Senator Michael Barrett would require sheriffs sending anyone in their custody out of Massachusetts to first receive approval from state officials.
If passed, sheriffs in Massachusetts would have to provide a detailed description of purpose and transportation details at least 90 days before transporting any prisoners out of state.
Representative Antonio Cabral co-sponsored Barrett’s bill and also filed his own, which would simply prohibit Massachusetts inmates or prisoners from laboring out-of-state.
“As you know, there have been some who have proposed to take inmates from Massachusetts and take them across the country to the southern border of the United States to build structures, to build walls,” Cabral said, according to the State House New s Service. “I think that’s not the best use of resources of Massachusetts, and certainly it’s not the best experience for inmates that are presently under our custody in Massachusetts,” he said.
Citing the constitutional authorities of his office, Hodgson reportedly said:
…We don’t really need the oversight of a senator or someone else to tell us that we can’t help other communities and other states when they’re in times of need.”
But Cabral’s bill co-sponsor, Representative Jamie Eldridge, said “It’s highly unusual for prisoners in Massachusetts to leave the state and work on any project, [particularly] to work on a project that is so controversial,” noting that local taxpayers would have to foot the bill.
However, Hodgson said he wants to work with the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay for transport and other costs. According to the Washington Post, Hodgson said the effort would be part of his Project National Inmates’ Community Endeavors (NICE), a national network of inmate workers that help with national disasters.
He also said only Bristol County inmates that volunteer would go to work on the border wall.
The Massachusetts American Civil Liberties Union, calling the idea perverse, is having none of it:
We’ve asked Sheriff Hodgson for “all records of communication” with Trump team on his idea to help build border wall https://t.co/xyunkbXzNv
— ACLU Massachusetts (@ACLU_Mass) January 5, 2017