NORTHAMPTON — Hampshire County Sheriff Patrick Cahillane edged out two challengers in the Democratic state primary in September, but in Tuesday’s national election he again faces Yvonne Gittelson, a corrections program specialist for the department of state education, while she is organizing a written campaign.
The Sheriff’s Department, with its seven divisions, including the Civil Procedure Department, oversees Northampton Jail and associated programs with a budget of approximately $15 million.
“My campaign is based on facts, my track record and my desire to continue to expand corrections in the community,” Cahillane, who has served as sheriff for six years, said in a Gazette statement.
During his campaign, Cahillane said he was in touch with area residents and explained that his job is to keep people safe at the prison and to educate the community, which he did while throughout the COVID pandemic, despite the challenges the virus has posed to correctional work. .
“I am proud of my staff for their hard work and unwavering commitment during this time of uncertainty,” Cahillane said. “And I’m proud of all the endorsements I’ve received from people who have watched our work and understand that we perform at a high level across all seven divisions of the department, and strive every day to do the right thing to the men in our charge.
He cites endorsements from a number of area police chiefs, as well as Attorney General Maura Healey, North West District Attorney David Sullivan and Hampshire County Registrar Mary Olberding.
Cahillane said there were several innovations during his first term, including the launch of the Nurturing Fathers Program, which won an Emerging Leader Award from The Childrens’ Trust, a Boston nonprofit; open the Rocky Hill Re-Entry Collaborative with the state parole board and ServiceNet to provide temporary housing for parolees so they can make a smoother transition to their families and communities; and the creation of the Community, Accountability, Recovery and Experience, or CARE, unit, a treatment model with the goal of instilling in participants a greater sense of ownership in their own recovery and the recovery of their peers.
Additionally, Cahillane continued to operate the Bridge to the Future House, the site of work release and electronic monitoring programs, launched a $100,000 information technology upgrade, and the prison of Northampton became one of the first facilities in the state to offer medication. -Assisted treatment of opioid use disorder.
Increased services for local seniors have also been realized with a new TRIAD Program field office now open in the Hampshire Shopping Centre.
As a written challenger, Gittelson continues to raise the same issues he did in the primary campaign, arguing that there are many flaws and loopholes in the current operation. Gittelson said she also felt it would be morally wrong if she didn’t press ahead with her campaign, noting that Cahillane didn’t get 50% of the vote and that “more people voted for change than to stay the same.” .
“I really want to bring about meaningful change at the Hampshire Sheriff’s Office, emphasizing transparency and pulling back the curtain,” Gittelson said.
If elected, Gittelson said she would walk around the facility every day and know every staff member and every inmate by name.
Some of the concepts she would promote include ESL classes, a virtual commercial driver’s license program, and expanded job training so that upon release, inmates can find work. She also reportedly has a virtual college program with the University of Massachusetts Correctional Institute.
Having an engaged relationship and partnership with the communities served is key, Gittelson said.
“Nobody knows who the sheriff is or does or knows what he did,” Gittelson said. “Six years and he can’t speak to a specific achievement”, although she notes that he reveals “neatly curated snippets of good news”.
Many shortcomings in the operation, she said, include no diversity training or professional development for staff members or those in custody, former detainees who say they were abused in solitary confinement and hiring practices for vacancies that are not properly advertised.
There has also been no good answer to why he was slow to report an inmate escape in September, and why officers who do road detailing for outside contractors are paid in cash, perhaps showing a lack of fiscal responsibility and transparency, she alleges. Gittelson is also concerned that a transgender inmate has successfully sued to be transferred to another site.
Gittelson said the Prison Rape Elimination Act remains a cause for concern because it shows the prison has had no incidents, no investigations and no findings. “It’s an attack on credibility,” Gittelson said.
Gittelson said managing a write-up comes with its own challenges, like letting people know his campaign didn’t end with the primary and is mostly self-funded.
“The challenge is making sure people know I’m still an option and a very viable candidate,” Gittelson said. “People get upset when there’s only one name on the ballot. People want choices.
“Voter intent” should be enough to determine whether someone votes in writing for her, city clerks told her. “I felt comforted by that, I think the clerk and clerks won’t require them to spell my full name and list it by full address,” Gittelson said.
“I’m proud of the fact that I’m not a politician and this is my first candidacy,” Gittelson said. “I hope to do something transformative and exciting in corrections as a progressive Democratic woman.”
Criticisms of his leadership are not accurate, Cahillane said. A point of contention was his return parts from a professional grant from the Ministry of Education. Cahillane, however, said failing to return that money would be tantamount to committing fraud against Massachusetts taxpayers, as the grant was based on the number of men who could be placed in classes, which dropped by nearly half during COVID. .
Another area that Gittelson has attacked him concerns the federal law on eliminating rape in prison. But he said the lack of incidents shows the vigilance and dedication of staff and the innovative use of surveillance cameras to keep prisoners safe. He disputes that sexually transmitted diseases circulated among the prison population, as she maintains.
“I believe that’s why the Democrats rejected his campaign of smear and innuendo and chose me as their candidate in the general election,” Cahillane said. “I am a proud Democrat, proud to have won the Democratic primary and eager to continue the innovative work I started.”
Scott Merzbach can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.