COVID-19: Staying Safe and Healthy
March 20, 2020
COVID-19 Resource Guide
April 3, 2020
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FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Peter Van Delft, Senior Public Information Officer, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department

The Massachusetts Sheriffs are committed to serving the communities they are sworn to protect. This responsibility includes the health and well-being of their justice-involved populations and the dedicated men and women on their teams of corrections professionals. Every sheriff sees it as their duty to ensure that the public safety and public health needs of all who live and work within their facilities are fully met.  That responsibility only grows during global emergencies, and the sheriffs are meeting the COVID-19 pandemic head-on.

Although the authority to release a detainee lies with the courts and the respective District Attorney’s Office, the sheriffs are committed to working with the judiciary as well as Law Enforcement partners to identify appropriate persons eligible for release. The priority of Sheriffs is always to have a re-entry release plan that helps individuals transition back into the community. A lack of community support services, particularly during a public health crisis, could set individuals and the communities up for failure.

“Clearly, we will work in concert with the courts and abide by any decision to release those in our care and custody, should they make that determination,” said Sheriff Tompkins. “But, one thing that should be of paramount importance to any such consideration is a careful assessment of whether those people targeted for release will be safer out in the streets than in our facilities.”

“It is critically important that they have access to the necessary health care, mental health and addiction recovery services, which we are fully equipped to deliver, and a safe, secure place to stay, because without those crucial things, the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 increases, along with the potential spread of infection to others in their radius.”

The Massachusetts Sheriffs and their staff are working tirelessly to safely manage their staff and inmate populations and to curbthe spread of COVID-19 to their county jails and houses of correction.  They provide an exceptional level of care in their facilities, and are prepared for public health scenarios such asthis.  The sheriffs have implemented proactive and strategic steps to limit the transmission of COVID-19 including:

❖ Providing in-service training on infectious diseases and emergency preparedness for staff before, during and after this crisis.
❖ Deploying enhanced intake screening protocols to evaluate new arrivals for symptoms of COVID-19 and limit potential transmission.
❖ Providing a high level of medical care for all individuals while employing specific protocols whenpotential or confirmed cases of COVID-19 arise.
❖ Engagement with medical experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH)and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) to ensure that their medical practices are maximally effective and responsive to the COVID-19  pandemic.
❖ Encouraging staff and their justice-involved populations to follow the CDC-recommended practices regarding handwashing, social distancing, continuous sanitizing of facilities and general transmission prevention. Signage has increasedthroughout the facilities to serve as a reminder of these practices.
❖ Enhancing screening of staff entering the facility.
❖ Temporarily suspending in-person visits for families and friends while enhancing alternative means of communication. This includes a range of options such as additional phone calls, mail services or, where available, increased access to text messaging and video conferencing.
❖ Working with the courts, enhancing videoconferencing and teleconferencing technology to ensure that an inmate’s access to the court is continued.


In addition to strategic efforts the Sheriffs have implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their facilities, the Sheriffs are working proactively with other law enforcement agencies and community advocates to review the individualized cases of those in their custody to ensure appropriate care and release information is provided.

It is crucial to each sheriff that every individual leaves their custody with an individualized and specialized care plan. Releasing individuals without that level of preparation would be a dereliction of the sheriff’s duty – and would not set up the justice-involved individual or their communities for a successful reentry.

During this uncertain and unsettling time, we understand many are concerned about the safety and protection of the justice-involved populations.  As an association, we share this same concern.   No one, however, is more concerned with the health and well-being of those in their care than our Sheriffs.  Thesafety, health and wellbeing of the staff and inmates are always at the forefront of the sheriffs’ minds in their daily decisionmaking.  Our sheriffs are continuously meeting and evaluating their protocols relating to COVID-19 to ensure the safety and welfare to those they serve.  Should the sheriffs see change in the status of the safety of their institutions they will not hesitate to make any decision or take any measure necessary to keep their population healthy and safe.