NORTHAMPTON — Hampshire County Sheriff Patrick Cahillane believes “bricks and mortar are for a small segment of the people who need to be incarcerated,” and that corrections is a community effort that requires connection to a wide range of services both inside and outside jail walls.
Cahillane, 64, of Leeds, recently confirmed that he is running for reelection to a second six-year term in charge of the sheriff’s department and the Hampshire County Jail and House of Correction at 205 Rocky Hill Road.
“To me, it’s simple. Take a look at our record, what we’ve done over the last six years and especially through COVID,” Cahillane said this week when asked about his argument for a second term. “The rest of the world shut down and we had to continue to function appropriately and keep everybody safe. … We made sure we did the right things along the way and we listened to the science.”
To date, Caitlin Sepeda is Cahillane’s sole opponent in the Democratic primary on Sept. 6. Sepeda, a 41-year-old corrections nurse from South Hadley, worked for Cahillane for more than nine years until October 2021, when she took a job at the Berkshire County jail in Pittsfield.
Sheriff candidates must collect 500 voter signatures to appear on the ballots in 21 Hampshire County communities.
First elected sheriff in November 2016 over Republican David Isakson, Cahillane has worked at the jail for 35 years, holding positions from correctional officer to deputy superintendent and special sheriff. He earned a master’s degree in criminal justice administration from Western New England University in Springfield.
If reelected, Cahillane said he would continue or expand several social service programs offered to pretrial detainees and inmates, whom the sheriff prefers to call “clients,” and restore volunteer positions that were lost due to public health restrictions.
“We as an organization, we serve many masters,” Cahillane said, including the “clients,” Hampshire County citizens, the state Legislature, jail staff and local law enforcement agencies that use the regional lockup. “I’m like the town manager for a small town. … It’s more complex than people would think.”
Cahillane launched the jail’s medication-assisted treatment program for opioid-addicted inmates, offering methadone and Suboxone onsite. He said the opioid epidemic “never stopped” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Right next to the jail is the Rocky Hill Collaborative, a 90-day program started during the pandemic for freed inmates with nowhere to live. Program staff help former inmates readjust to life outside of jail and provide assistance with getting identification, Social Security cards and other necessities for finding stable work.
“A lot of them don’t have roofs over their heads, they don’t have transportation, so while we have them with us, we try to work on some of those pieces,” Cahillane said.
Cahillane has continued the expansion of the Bridge to the Future House, a temporary shelter and care program on Grove Street for certain inmates who are soon to complete their sentences. The jail also recently formed a partnership with the Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce to offer job referral and entrepreneurship services to LGBT inmates.
In partnership with the Children’s Trust Fund, the jail started offering the Nurturing Fathers Program to inmates shortly before Cahillane’s election. The program is a 13-week, grant-supported curriculum that teaches parenting skills to men, and Cahillane later expanded eligibility to former inmates.
“We’re going to work with them of those types of things because that’s what we need in the community. That’s what’s going to keep people out of here, is community support,” Cahillane said.
Brian Steele can be reached at [email protected]