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Paul Heroux pledges reforms as new Bristol County Sheriff



Secretary of State William Galvin administers the oath of office to incoming Bristol County Sheriff Paul Heroux, who took the reins from Thomas Hodgson at a swearing-in in Fall River Tuesday night. [Photo: Craig Sandler/SHNS]

By Craig Sandler

The new sheriff, who unseated incumbent Thomas Hodgson in a hard-fought and close campaign, thanked Hodgson on Tuesday for being a “professional and a gentleman” during the transition. And, as he had in the campaign, Heroux vowed to bring a series of changes and reforms to the sheriff’s office and the Bristol County Jail.

He announced he’ll appoint a new director of inmate services to work on addiction treatment, mental health services and medical care for inmates; bring in outside evaluators to study jail operations; and to gather data before acting to “act on things that can be proven, and always be fair.”

Among those he thanked at B.M.C. Durfee High School were his fourth-grade teacher and Harvard Kennedy School professor David King, both of whom were in attendance in the crowd of several hundred at the high school’s auditorium.

Bristol County Sheriff Paul Heroux’s full remarks:

Good evening. Thank you all for being here tonight. First, I’d like to thank the following who made this Inauguration possible:

Mayor Coogan and his Office staff – Chief of Staff, Anne O’Neal Souza

Secretary of State William Galvin, and Nancy Driscoll from that office,

Fall River Public School Superintendent Maria Pontes and the Fall River School District’s Chief Operating Officer, Ken Pacheco,

Inaugural Planning Committee – Marlene Pollock, Alex Houston, and Rafael Pizarro, and all the participants on stage.

I’d also like to thank the BCSO Honor Guard. This is our first operation together.

I’d like to thank Sheriff Hodgson for his 25 years of service in this role, for being a professional and gentleman during this transition, and for personally giving me a tour of the jail prior to my arrival tomorrow.

I want to thank the people who worked on my campaign team – spreading the word to families and friends, putting up signs, knocking on doors, having sign holdings, meet and greets, and phone calling, and so much more.

And to the voters!

This was a movement, a movement for change. A movement that was empowered by so many people and voters, yet the pundits said couldn’t be successful. The volunteers and impassioned voters were the elements that the experts overlooked. This election demonstrates, like so many elections, that the people determine who is elected, that we can make a difference, that we can make history! And thanks to all of you for making that happen.

This election was about change. The people of this county want to see some changes in the Sheriff’s office. I ask that you be patient when waiting for that change.

I have heard the concerns. I have recorded everything. Now I am going to address those concerns. I take things seriously, but I do not overreact. I am going to act on things that can be proven. I am going to be fair.

To the staff of the BCSO. We have a lot of work to do together. I am going to make some changes. I am going to keep some things the same. Please always remember that I never make decisions alone and there will be a reason for everything. This is how I have operated as mayor.

The BCSO is responsible for the care, custody, control and rehabilitation of inmates. It is responsible for the employment conditions of hundreds of employees.

I have stated in the recent past that I am going to be modifying the organizational structure of the system. That starts at the top with senior management. This is going to be similar to what I worked under while at the Philadelphia Prison System, as well as the Massachusetts Department of Correction. In my previous two corrections jobs, there was a commissioner and then several deputy commissioners each responsible for a different subject matter in corrections.

For example, we will have a director of security, a director of budget and finance, and a director of administration.

I am also going to have a fourth direct report, director level position. I am going to have a director of inmate services. This is a point person who would report directly to the sheriff who oversees matters concerning medical, food, education, rehabilitation programs, discharge planning and other similar concerns that we need to address in an effective manner. This would be an experienced administrator with a history of running a facility specializing in mental health, medical care, addiction, or other like services.

I campaigned on many things. I campaigned on that I measure our rate of recidivism. I did this before. I am going to do it again. Procedurally, this is straightforward, and it won’t take much time to do.

I also campaigned on measuring the effectiveness of the programs intended to reduce recidivism; I will do exactly that. This is not an academic issue. This is about public safety.

Consider that inmates are often paroled based in part on their participation in treatment programs intended to reduce recidivism. If our programs don’t work, someone not ready for release may go out and do something no one wants. Countless people are released and reoffend to varying degrees. It is impossible to bat a thousand. It is critically important that we know if what we are doing is effective or not. This isn’t a Republican ideal or a Democratic ideal. This is about good government.

Few correctional facilities in the country measure outcomes. We will expand what works, reform or eliminate what does not. We need to be appropriately self-critical. Procedurally, this is more complicated and will require more time, but it can and will be done.

I have heard that many services are being offered. I have also heard they are not being offered. I won’t know the degree to which until I get an up-close look. If it is not already being done, we are going to set inmates up with housing, healthcare, and a job. These are the pillars of successful prisoner reentry.

But one thing for sure is that services offered under me are going to be made public to a degree we have not seen before. Publishing numbers is not just an academic exercise. It is about reporting on our efforts in a meaningful way that will give the public full confidence that we are delivering results.

I am also going to closely look at the high rate of suicide. I have never promised to stop all suicides, but it is my hope that we can reduce the rate. During the campaign I said I am going to bring in qualified outside help to look at this. I will.

I am also going to invite people to tour our facilities. Tours are an educational opportunity. I want anyone interested in seeing and learning about the conditions of confinement to have that opportunity.

Something I did not campaign on, but I am going to pursue, is a program to recruit homeless veterans to work for us. I want to work with local organizations to get these veterans housing and healthcare and train them in a profession – corrections. I will work with our local state legislative delegation to help make this happen.

When I took over as mayor, I built on the work of the previous mayor. I continued with initiatives and started my own new ones. I intend to do that here.

I will do this job knowing that someday, I will no longer be the sheriff and whoever succeeds me will build on the work that I have done. That is the goal. If we think we are already doing the best we can, there is no room for improvement. We need to always strive to get better. It is what our Founders meant when they said we need to always strive to make a more perfect union.

I won’t be sheriff for life. I will only be sheriff for one or maybe two terms. It is my hope that I will improve the system, and then leave on a high note.

At the core of what we do in corrections is God’s work. It’s about working with people who might not have ever had that first chance in life, who many in society have disdain for. It’s about giving hope to the families of the incarcerated. It’s about giving a sense of purpose to the people who work in corrections. It’s about giving pride to the people who live in our community that we are doing something that, although they may not see, is a benefit to them and their loved ones.

The election is over. I may have been one side’s candidate, but now I am everyone’s sheriff. Whether you supported me or not, I hope you like the work that is done and the results that are delivered.

Time to get to work tomorrow.



  1. NotAFan

    January 4, 2023 at 9:17 am

    Yes. Inmate services. That’s where you need to focus. 🫤🙄

  2. MortisMaximus

    January 4, 2023 at 4:57 pm

    This election was stolen because Hodgson was the strongest elected Republican in Massachusetts. Who trusts Bill Galvin? Guy looks like Satan himself.

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