Hodgson Fires Back At Beacon Hill Dems Over Out-Of-State Prisoner Work Ban

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2017/05/25/hodgson-fires-back-at-beacon-hill-dems-over-out-of-state-prisoner-work-ban/

BOSTON — Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson fired back at Beacon Hill Democrats on Wednesday night, labeling them and specifically the sponsor of a leadership-backed bill passed along party lines hours before — one which bans corrections inmates from working across state lines — as “ignorant.”

“That’s the thing about Representative Cabral — he couldn’t answer the questions, and he basically filed a bill out of ignorance, not knowing anything, and that usually happens — especially in this case — because he wanted to fit a political agenda,” Hodgson said about state Rep. Antonio Cabral (D-New Bedford), whose legislation soared through the House along party lines despite a bevy of questions from GOP members regarding its urgency. 

Hodgson made headlines in January when he offered to send inmates serving time at his Bristol County House of Correction to the Mexican border in order to assist with the construction of President Donald Trump’s proposed controversial border wall. Wednesday’s House vote, however, dealt with universal legislation aimed at prohibiting prisoners from voluntarily participating in any work detail assignments outside the commonwealth — let alone the southwestern U.S. border.

Hodgson pointed out that Massachusetts is already a member of a compact established with other New England states, one that provides for allowing prisoners to voluntarily work on projects outside of the commonwealth should the need arise, although the sheriff noted an absence of outside-Massachusetts work detail requests during his time presiding over Bristol County, which dates back to 1997.

During Wednesday’s House session, Republican members, especially House Minority Leader Bradley Jones (R-North Reading), repeatedly quizzed Cabral on whether he knew of such compact agreements. Jones also picked apart the language of the bill and called out Cabral for claiming that an emergency order from a sitting governor could waive the prohibition, despite no such wording being apparent within the bill itself.

Hodgson on Wednesday night told New Boston Post that a bill he filed calling for extending the compact beyond New England states — “to go nationally” — has yet to be heard by any committee.

Cabral’s bill was given a public hearing by the Judiciary Committee on May 8. Approximately two weeks later, his bill earned a “favorable” recommendation from the committee — and entered the House chamber for Wednesday’s vote just two days later. Hodgson’s legislative petition, presented by state Representative Elizabeth Poirier (R-North Attleboro), was referred to the Judiciary Committee on January 23. 

The Judiciary Committee has yet to hold a hearing on Hodgson’s petition.

“The fact we don’t have anyone working in any other states at this point speaks volumes to the motivation of Rep. Cabral, and I think Massachusetts residents can see that,” Hodgson added.

Asked to reflect on Wednesday’s proceedings in the House, Hodgson did not hold back.

“What was real clear was that Rep. Cabral didn’t answer the questions,” Hodgson said. “He could not answer the questions.

“He was asked why he filed the bill, because nobody has ever, in the last 10 years, assigned anybody out of the state.”

Asked by a New Boston Post reporter to comment on the most frequently voiced concern among Democrats during Wednesday’s deliberations on the House floor — that Massachusetts residents would get stuck with funding travel and housing costs for prisoners — Hodgson pointed to his earlier testimony before the Judiciary Committee.

“In my testimony, I mentioned that we would only do these projects if the federal government — FEMA or whomever — will reimburse or pay for housing or whatever connections we need from the local sheriff’s office, that we would work this arrangement out, transportation and everything else, so we don’t expect Massachusetts taxpayers to pay for the work we’re doing in another place, or for a project that’s bigger than the region can handle, so no — we made that clear,” Hodgson said.

“This is not about taking money out of the state budget — this is about America stepping forward with resources at a time when a community has a big problem, bigger than they can handle.”

Asked bluntly whether or not he believes his critics, who have argued that his border wall prisoner proposal equates to a form of bigotry against illegal immigrants, Hodgson shook his head.

“Communities shouldn’t be divided over an issue that is the responsibility of the inaction of Congress,” Hodgson said.