Sheriff Hodgson and the wall


Joseph Sohm

SAN PEDRO, CA – SEPTEMBER 15, 2015: Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, speaks during a rally aboard the Battleship USS Iowa in San Pedro, Los Angeles, California while wearing a red baseball hat that says campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.”

A sheriff is defined as an elected officer who is in charge of keeping peace in their assigned county. Our hometown sheriff Thomas Hodgson has been doing anything but keeping the peace recently, and has further stirred up our frazzled post-election town.

On January 4, at his fourth inaugural press conference, Hodgson offered President Trump the Bristol County inmates to help build Trump’s Mexican border wall. Hodgson’s plan has recently endured pushback in our state legislature, and has brought liberals and conservatives to yet another domestic battle: prisoners’ rights. Every human being deserves human rights, but these lines are blurred for some when a crime is committed.

It’s important to make one thing in this argument clear, however: the 13th amendment does indeed abolish slavery, but not for all American citizens. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” In other words, it is legal for prisoners to be enslaved during their jail time, under the Constitution.

This brings us back to the local issue. MA State Rep. for New Bedford Antonio Cabral has come up with a bill that would amend the state law so it would be illegal for Massachusetts inmates to work outside the state.

“It’s not his responsibility nor does he have the authority to tell me how to manage my inmates,” said Hodgson in response to this bill. Many say that Hodgson’s idea could very well be slavery, but remember, this is legal under the US Constitution. While no, it is not morally correct in any way to own a slave or treat a human being as anything but a human being, it’s also not morally correct, in most situations, to break the law.

Then again, this is also the law that still allows slavery, so picking a side of the debate is difficult. Students here at DHS seem to represent both sides of this argument.

“It’s not like in the past how people were enslaved and abused because they were different. The Bristol County prisoners are being punished for a certain reason,” said sophomore Abby Arruda, in regards to people comparing Hodgson’s plan to a new form of slavery.

Many student opinions on Hodgson’s proposal have a lot to do with their opinion on Trump’s wall. “I think it’s ridiculous that the sheriff supports the construction of the wall, and I think it’s even more ridiculous that he’s trying to volunteer inmates to do this work against their will,”  said a sophomore.

Others, like Hodgson, believe that this idea could have a positive impact on the inmates and could be an effective use of free labor. Hodgson named his proposal Project NICE (National Inmates’ Community Endeavors), which is meant to help rehabilitate inmates.

“Aside from learning and perfecting construction skills, the symbolism of these inmates building a wall to prevent crime in communities around the country can be very powerful,” said Hodgson.

“I think it’s a good idea so the inmates can have a purpose in life, and give back to society,” said sophomore Taenlar Tavares.

It does not look like Hodgson’s proposal will make any actual progress. Multiple organizations and civil rights activists including the ACLU, US Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, and others have spoken out against Hodgson.

“Its likely an attempt by Sheriff Hodgson just to ride this wave and become famous nationally,” said staff counsel with the Massachusetts ACLU, Laura Rótolo.