Mass. Sheriff Concerned About Virus-Related Inmate Releases

Sheriff Nick Cochi said that inmates from his facilities have re-offended, finding themselves homeless and relapsing into drug use

Stock photo of jail cell bars

A Massachusetts sheriff is raising concerns about jail inmates who are being released early because of fears about coronavirus outbreaks behind bars.

Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi said Thursday that inmates released from his facilities have re-offended, found themselves homeless and relapsed into drug use.

"This is literally a circus and it’s unfolding right before my very eyes. This is a serious public safety threat and many of these people also are dangers to themselves,” Cocchi said at a news conference, according to “They get out of jail to escape COVID-19 and go back to far more dangerous and risky environments."

One inmate died of a heroin overdose days after his release. Another spent his first night after his release sleeping in a dumpster. A drug dependent inmate relapsed after her release, and returned to prostitution, according to Cocchi’s records.

Family and friend visits have been suspended at Massachusetts Department of Correction facilities as the agency tries to protect inmates amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Defense attorneys say the pandemic has spotlighted problems with the penal system and resources used to incarcerate people should be redirected into community programs.

"COVID-19 or no COVID-19, there are way too many people in jail, way too many people in jail. This is a result of our country’s 50-year addiction to incarceration," said defense lawyer David Hoose, president of Western Massachusetts Lawyers for Justice.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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