Hampden County Sheriff’s Department Operational Changes in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

As the threat of COVID-19 continues, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department is maintaining significant steps to protect the staff, the incarcerated individuals in its care, and the general public. All volunteers, interns, and program vendors paused providing their services inside our facilities starting in March, until further notice. Volunteers, interns and vendors should communicate with their specific department liaisons for updates.

The Department is in constant contact with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, the Massachusetts Sheriff’s Association, and the Department of Public Health to ensure we are up on the latest recommendations coming from the Centers for Disease Control.

“These are unprecedented times and to adapt, and best protect our staff, the people in our custody and the general public, we have taken unprecedented measures that impact virtually every aspect of our operations,” said Sheriff Nick Cocchi. “None of these decisions were made lightly and we will continually be evaluating our decisions over the coming weeks to ensure that these changes remain necessary and are the best way to ensure the health and safety of every staff member and person in our care.”

Massachusetts residents and first responders can find a variety of statewide resources related to the COVID-19 Pandemic on Frontlinema.org, a website launched by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

In light of the pandemic, the Sheriff’s Department has implemented the following operational changes, which are being evaluated weekly and modified as needed:

Personal Visits & Communications: As of mid-March 2020, all inmate visits were paused until the COVID-19 threat passes. As a means to maintain outside communication and a connection with family and friends, Sheriff Cocchi authorized two hours of free phone calls each week for our offender population. Our inmates also received three free stamped envelopes per week to send letters to their loved ones.

Additionally, Sheriff Cocchi directed staff to develop and expand video visiting to maintain court appearances without exposing inmates and staff to more outside contact. The video technology has maintained crucial court appearances and due process and has allowed families to celebrate holidays and birthdays with loved ones, all while strengthening the bridge to the community that is crucial to a person’s success upon release from custody.

PVTA’s Stonybrook Express: The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority bus route we subsidize will maintain its normal daily runs but has paused bringing passengers to our correctional facilities. Instead, it is being used primarily for offenders leaving our care and custody to return to their homes.

Inmate Account Kiosks: While access to machines at the Main Institution in Ludlow and the Women’s Regional Correctional Center in Chicopee is no longer permitted, people CAN make deposits into inmate accounts at the Western Mass. Recovery &; Wellness Center at 155 Mill Street in Springfield. Deposits can also be made via a bilingual telephone hotline (1-866-345-1884), online at www.accesscorrections.com or via the Access Corrections app, which is available on Apple and Android devices. More information on that here.

Professional Visits: During the pandemic, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Office has remained open for in-person attorney visits, but few have occurred. Attorneys should call the facility before they come for a visit to be certain that their client is not under any medical restrictions. We don’t want to have to turn anyone away if their client cannot be moved to the visiting area due to medical precautions. All attorneys will still have to undergo a brief COVID-19 screening and will be required to wear a mask on-site. The visiting area is sanitized thoroughly before and after each visit. Attorneys can find more information about contacting clients here.

Staff Screening: The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department is screening every single employee before they enter our facilities on every shift. If anyone has any symptoms potentially linked to COVID-19, they are sent home and we follow-up with them to ensure they are alright and have everything they need. Medical clearance is required before someone can return to work.

Property Retrieval: Beginning September 1, the staff at both the Main Institution and the Women’s Correctional Center will begin to contact individuals who have property remaining at the respective facility, due to COVID-19.  A call will be placed to the phone number we have in our system and if we are unable to contact someone by phone, a letter will be sent to the most recent address we have on file. The property will be held an additional 45 additional days to allow sufficient time for people to pick it up.

Programs: All offender-based programming provided by non-Sheriff’s Department employees temporarily paused, while programming provided by Sheriff’s Department staff continues in a reduced capacity until further notice. All volunteers, interns, and program vendors have paused their services inside our facilities until further notice.

Medical: All medical services have continued with additional attention paid to the transmission of infectious diseases throughout our facilities. Our enhanced offender screening procedures at intake and subsequent medical follow-up will remain in effect indefinitely.

York Street Industries & PPE Production: As the nation continues to deal with a significant shortage of medical personal protective equipment in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department is doing what it can to help. Based on the capabilities of our York Street Industries program, which teaches incarcerated individuals manufacturing skills that can translate to jobs post-release, we continue to manufacture protective masks and gowns, and assemble protective face shields. We will continue to produce these items as long as the need exists.

Community Restitution: As of Tuesday, March 17, only the Sheriff’s Department staff assigned to the community service crews have continued to perform those duties as they work exclusively off-site to lower the risk to our other staff and the offender population.

All-Inclusive Support services (AISS): Our community support center, located at 736 State Street with an entry gate adjacent to 28 Buckingham Street in Springfield, is currently operating remote (phone & video call) support as well as on-site case management by appointment only. A few support groups also occur on-site, and we will continue to incrementally adjust what we offer based on public health data. For service, the public can call (413) 781-2050 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Regional Safe-Keeps: In order to support our public safety partners, we continue to accept people accused of a crime with changes to our intake procedures designed to keep everybody safe. All Regional safe-keeps at the Main Institution in Ludlow and at the Western Mass. Regional Women’s Correctional Center in Chicopee are being housed in separate units in order to isolate this temporary population for the protection of our staff and the general population.

Work Release and Pre-Release Programming: In order to best protect our staff and the people in our care, all inmates with jobs in the community have temporarily stopped working off-site. With the postponement of outside meetings, our staff will arrange phone calls when possible to address one on one meetings and re-entry planning.

Foundation House: All residents at Foundation House will be temporarily discontinuing their work-related activities. Foundation House staff will arrange phone calls when possible to address outside services. All Medication Assisted Treatment patients in Foundation House will now receive medication inside the facility rather than out in the community.

First Responder Recovery Home: The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department opened the First Responder Recovery Home to fill an unmet need in the Commonwealth of providing a safe haven for our frontline workers, including doctors, nurses, EMTs, police, firefighters, corrections professionals, retail and grocery store workers who are diagnosed with COVID-19, but can’t safely go home to recover without jeopardizing the health of a vulnerable family member. The stay and all amenities are provided free of charge, thanks to the department’s generous community supporters and partners. Any doctor, nurse, police, firefighter, EMT, correctional professional, or military member can call 413-858-0801 or 413-858-0819 to request a room. Get more information here.

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Enlightened And Effective Corrections

The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department supervises approximately 1,300 people in various levels of security, including civil commitments, across five facilities in Western Massachusetts. Sheriff Nick Cocchi, elected to the office of sheriff in 2016, is spearheading several initiatives including addressing the opioid crisis and working more closely with local and federal law enforcement to enhance public safety in the greater Springfield area.

As the role of the Sheriff’s office has evolved from care while in custody, to prevention before incarceration, Sheriff Cocchi has continued to push outreach efforts to engage the community in a variety of ways.

The department has a deserved national reputation for its innovation in facility and community programs. The Hampden County Correctional Center is considered a model of safe, secure, orderly, lawful, humane, and productive corrections, where inmates are challenged to pick up the tools and directions to build a law-abiding life in an atmosphere free from violence.

In Massachusetts, county correctional facilities incarcerate both pre-trial detainees and sentenced individuals with sentences of two and a half years or less.

The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department oversees several correctional facilities and programs, including: