Hampden County Sheriff’s Department Implements Operational Changes to Prevent Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

As the threat of COVID-19 Coronavirus evolves and grows, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department is taking significant steps to protect the staff, the offenders in its care, and the general public at large. All volunteers, interns, and program vendors will discontinue their services inside our facilities until further notice. Volunteers, interns and vendors should check the website and 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 and the World Health Organization.

In line with actions announced by Governor Charlie Baker, Sheriff Nick Cocchi has excused all non-essential staff from reporting to work to reduce the chances of bringing infection into our facilities.

“These are unprecedented times and to adapt, and best protect our staff, the offenders in our care and the general public, we are taking 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 daily and modified as needed:

Personal Visits & Communications: As of Monday, March 16, 2020, all inmate visits will pause for the next 60 days or until the COVID-19 threat passes.  As a means to maintain outside communication and connection with family and friends, Sheriff Cocchi has authorized 2 hours of free phone calls each week for our offender population. Our inmates will also receive three free envelopes per week to send letters to their loved ones. Additionally, Sheriff Cocchi has directed staff to come up with a process to establish video visiting. We are working on preparing the technology and infrastructure now with the hopes of rolling it out as soon as possible.

PVTA’s Stonybrook Express: The PVTA bus route we subsidize will maintain its normal daily runs but will stop bringing passengers to our correctional facilities. Instead, it will be 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: Attorney and clergy visits, as well as all other court-ordered visits, will continue but will occur in a non-contact manner to contain the potential spread of the Coronavirus. With this in mind, all professional visitors will be required to wear a face mask.  All other professional visits are temporarily discontinued. For more information on attorneys looking to contact incarcerated clients during the pandemic, click 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 will follow-up with them to ensure they are alright and have everything they need.

Property Drop-Off and Retrieval: There will be no property pick-ups until further notice.  The regular 30-day time limit to pick up the property will be extended.  Individuals will be able to pick up property within 60 days from the time property pick up resumes.

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

Medical: All medical services will continue 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’ve begun manufacturing protective masks and gowns. We will continue to produce these items as long as the need exists.

Community Restitution: As of Tuesday, March 17, all community service crews will discontinue their work until further notice. Only Sheriff’s Department staff assigned to the crews will continue to perform those duties and they will work exclusively off-site to lower the risk to our other staff and the offender population.

All-Inclusive Support Services (AISS): Our All-Inclusive Support Services building at 736 State Street in Springfield will close to in-person services effective immediately. We will still, however, continue to provide our community-based services and support via phone and through other electronic means. For service, the public can call (413) 781-2050.

Classification and Transportation: Beginning Monday, March 16, the courts across the Commonwealth are closed temporarily. During the closure, the Department is working to increase our capacity for video conferencing to ensure the safety and well-being of staff and offenders upon their re-opening. Health Services will screen and must approve every request for a transfer from other facilities. Further, we will not accept any transfer unless a subject has already been in custody for at least 14 days and shown to be symptom-free.

Regional Lock Ups: In order to support our public safety partners, we will continue to accept people accused of a crime with the following changes: Effective immediately, all Regional Lock-ups at the Main Institution in Ludlow will be housed in a separate unit in order to isolate this temporary population for the protection of our staff and the general population. At the Western Mass. Regional Women’s Correctional Center in Chicopee, the Regional Lock-ups will also be separated from the rest of the population. Our Orientation Areas will now keep all new intakes for a minimum of 5 days to increase medical monitoring until this group is sent to the general population.

Meal Services: Our meal delivery to the population will continue as normal.  We have been informed that we have an ample food supply as well as access to additional stock if needed. Our staff Grilles will continue to operate as scheduled. However, the Old Armory Grille in Springfield will temporarily close starting Tuesday, March 17.

Work Release and Pre-Release Programming: Our employment manager will be notifying all clients that per the governor’s directive, effective immediately, that their employees housed at the Sheriff’s Department will be temporarily discontinuing work. All other program-related activities are to stop until further notice.  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: As of April 7, the department opened its Pre-Release Center to all front-line workers who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, but can’t go home to recover without jeopardizing the health of a vulnerable family member. The stay and all amenities will be 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: