Sheriff proposes sending inmates to help with Harvey damage

State rep calls idea "political grandstanding"

TAUNTON, Mass. (AP/WPRI) — A Massachusetts sheriff who proposed sending county jail inmates to help President Donald Trump build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is offering to send inmates to Texas to help clean up damage from Hurricane Harvey.

WGBH-FM first reported Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson wants to send inmate “volunteers” to help rebuild Houston.

Hodgson says 10 inmates have expressed interest in the project. He says he hopes federal disaster relief funds can cover inmates’ transportation and housing costs.

“It’s a way to save taxpayers money. Give them a chance to get some rehabilitative benefit, and everybody wins,” Hodgson said.

The plan would need approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, local sheriffs involved and the National Sheriffs’ Association.

Hodgson says he has been in contact with the sheriffs association. The association’s executive director said Tuesday that the idea is innovative.

“America’s sheriffs are innovative problem solvers. We tackle the toughest problems. Sheriff Hodgson is a valuable example of that,” the sheriff’s association in a statement. “There’s a lot of heavy bureaucratic lifts and challenges to make this happen. In historically difficult times like today, all ideas are welcome”

After Hodgson proposed sending inmates to help build the border wall proposed by President Trump – a fellow Republican – State Rep. Paul Heroux (D-Attleboro), co-sponsored a bill that would prohibit Massachusetts inmates from leaving the Commonwealth to work elsewhere.

He said he thinks Hodgson’s latest proposal is political grandstanding.

“It’s largely a political statement rather than, I believe, a serious attempt to use prison labor to help out the situation in Houston,” Heroux said.