Arizona voters may have gotten rid of Joe Arpaio — one of the few good things to come out of election day — but never fear, there are others waiting in the wings to take his place as America’s most despicable sheriff. One who is in the running is Bristol County, Massachusetts sheriff Thomas Hodgson.
A few days ago, controversy over Donald Trump’s border wall with Mexico flared again when it was revealed his transition team has indicated to Congress that they want U.S. taxpayers to foot the bill. But before that happened Hodgson was lining up part of the labor force — Bristol County inmates.
At his swearing-in ceremony on January 4, Hodgson said this about Trump’s project:
I can think of no other project that would have such a positive impact on our inmates and our country than building this wall.
Aside from learning and perfecting construction skills, the symbolism of these inmates building a wall to prevent crime in communities around the country, and to preserve jobs and work opportunities for them and other Americans upon release, can be very powerful.
Is there anything that says “America” more than construction projects built by forced labor? And since in Bristol County, as in much of the U.S., a large portion of inmates are non-white, the visual would be something right out of the 19th century. Perfect, since that seems to be where Trump wants to take us in order to “Make America Great Again.” We don’t need to actually pay anybody to get this wall built. We’ll simply use the ready-made labor force of the country that imprisons a higher percentage of its population than any other nation in the world.
The sheriff’s idea, which he calls Project NICE (for “National Inmates’ Community Endeavors”), is short on details. For example, he has offered no explanation for how the inmates would be transported to the border, where they would be housed while working, or who would pay for all of that. The answer is, of course, “taxpayers.”
Hodgson, who Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham calls a “rabid publicity-hound,” appears ready to take Arpaio’s spotlight. According to her, he runs his jail in a similar fashion to the ousted Arizona lawman, with chain gangs and overcrowding. Hodgson has even tried to one-up his western counterpart, seeking approval to charge inmates $5 a day for their incarceration. The guy is a right-winger’s wet dream come true.
Supposedly a fiscal conservative (aren’t they all?), Hodgson has cost Bristol County almost $5 million in lawsuits almost everyone knew he couldn’t win. And now he wants to spend even more taxpayers’ money by moving his jail south.
Massachusetts’ Republican governor Charlie Baker issued a statement through a spokesman about Hodgson’s idea.
The Baker-Polito administration is thankful for the valuable community service inmates in Bristol County have provided through work programs and would prefer they continue to offer those services closer to home. The administration has not been briefed on the sheriff’s proposal.
In other words sheriff, STFU. Massachusetts isn’t looking for another Arpaio. Any bets on how long it takes for Hodgson to get a regular guest appearance gig on Fox News?