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 our care, and the general public. The COVID-19 vaccine was rolled out in accordance with state Department of Public Health guidelines in January and continues to be offered to all inmates, Section 35 clients, and all staff and contractors who work in our facilities.
Because of the rollout of the vaccine, certain elements of our operations that were paused at the onset of the pandemic have resumed in a limited capacity. Some areas which continue to be impacted include:
Personal Visits & Communications: Since mid-March 2020, all in-person 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, our staff has worked to provide video visitation to the individuals in our care so they continue to see their families.
With the courts being significantly impacted by the pandemic, Sheriff Cocchi directed staff to expand teleconferencing capacity 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 unvaccinated employee or contractor 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 including a negative COVID test is required before someone can return to work.
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 with inmate safety in mind.
Medical: All medical services have continued with additional attention paid to the transmission of infectious diseases throughout our facilities. Our enhanced offender screening procedures, including preventative medical quarantine at intake, COVID testing and subsequent medical follow-up will remain in effect indefinitely.
York Street Industries & PPE Production: When the nation was faced with a significant shortage of medical personal protective equipment during the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department stepped up 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.
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 to assist released individuals and the community. For service, the public can call (413) 781-2050 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Additionally, the staff there is helping establish COVID-19 Vaccine appointments for the public, but due to the limited supply and the Commonwealth increasing the number of people eligible, our ability to book appointments has become much more difficult. Please know our team is still working hard daily to assist with the process, but due to factors outside our control, we ask for your patience and understanding. To reach our staff for assistance with COVID-19 vaccine appointments, call (413) 278-5584.
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.
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:
- Hampden County Correctional Center (Main Institution) – Ludlow, MA
- Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center – Chicopee, MA
- Stonybrook Stabilization and Treatment Centers- Ludlow & Springfield, MA
- Western Massachusetts Recovery and Wellness Center – Springfield, MA
- Pre-Release Center (PRC) – Ludlow, MA
- All-Inclusive Support Services (AISS) – Springfield, MA