Hodgson’s off the wall idea

For the most part, Massachusetts is bereft of the cast of local Trump acolytes who have risen up elsewhere to pronounce the incoming president a leader of enormous vision and deeply-considered ideas. And then there is Tom Hodgson.

The longtime Republican Bristol County sheriff has long been something of an outlier in the Bay State political mix. In 1999, he instituted a “voluntary unpaid chain gang work unit.” Three years later he initiated a policy of charging inmates $5 for each day they are behind bars in his facilities. The move was struck down by the Supreme Judicial Court, but Hodgson said yesterday he is exploring a way to reinstitute the fee.

None of his earlier moves, however, may compare to the latest Hodgson shocker, offered up at the ceremony yesterday where Gov. Charlie Baker swore him in for a fourth six-year term.

President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly vowed that Mexico will pay for the expansive wall he will have erected to separate the US from its southern neighbor. But Hodgson — a big Trump supporter — now appears ready to help Mexico save on labor costs by sending inmates from the Bristol County House of Correction on a 2,000-mile field trip to the Rio Grande Valley to help build the border barrier.

“I can think of no other project that would have such a positive impact on our inmates and our country than building this wall,” the Republican sheriff declared in his remarks at the swearing-in ceremony.

Of course, there is no actual wall project yet. And even the man who made its construction a demagogic cornerstone of his campaign now says parts of the wall could actually be a fence. Hodgson also offered no details on who would pay for the cost of transporting, housing, and keeping secure any inmates he send from the South Coast to the country’s southern border.

He suggested that the work unit would help keep out illegal immigrants who are taking jobs from Americans and equip inmates with valuable construction skills. “It’s job training and more,” he said.

Vincent Schiraldi, a former New York City probation commissioner who is currently a research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, tells WBUR that prisoner work projects can be a good way for offenders to provide community reparations. But he says it would be a shame to do that on “probably the most divisive public works project perhaps in the history of America.”

Hodgson likened the idea to the Peace Corps.

A lawyer for the ACLU likened it to “modern-day slave labor” and said the organization would go to court to stop such a plan.

“It’s inhumane, and it’s most likely unconstitutional. It’s also likely an attempt by Sheriff Hodgson just to ride this wave and become famous nationally,” Laura Rótolo, a staff lawyer with the ACLU, told the Globe. “I hope we don’t have to take this proposal seriously.

Hodgson said his office forwarded the idea to a domestic policy staffer for Trump, but has not yet heard back from the incoming administration.

Closer to home, the plan is not being taken too seriously by the state’s top Republican, who swore in the sheriff for a new term and then seemed to quickly swear off his latest idea.

“The Baker-Polito Administration is thankful for the valuable community service inmates in Bristol County have provided through work programs and would prefer they continue to offer those services closer to home,” gubernatorial spokesman Billy Pitman told the Globe.



Senate President Stan Rosenberg ushers in the new term with a call for new revenue to meet growing needs in education, transportation, and other areas, and he makes the case for comprehensive criminal justice reform. (CommonWealth) A Herald editorial pans Rosenberg’s call for new taxes as a return to the bad old days.

Two long-time reps, known for past infighting with House Speaker Robert DeLeo, skip the vote giving him another two year term. (State House News)

Why the Legislature’s trash talk in the end added up to nothing. (CommonWealth)

A Lowell Sun editorial praises the advent of the state’s new Public Records Law.

State officials release statistics on the number of data breaches annually since 2007. (Telegram & Gazette)


A former Falmouth police officer who was shot during an ambush while he was off-duty in 1979 will receive a boost in his pension after decades of living off a meager monthly stipend for accidental injury. (Cape Cod Times)


President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team has reportedly winnowed his list of Supreme Court nominees down to three, with an eye on not just one but two openings early in the new president’s term. (U.S. News & World Report)


Jay Gonzalez, who served as budget chief under Gov. Deval Patrick, is seriously considering a Democratic run for governor in 2018. (Boston Globe)

Massachusetts Republican State Party Chairman Kirsten Hughes, citing gains in the governor’s office and Legislature, says she has locked up enough commitments to ward off a conservative challenger for another four-year term. (Patriot Ledger)

Meanwhile, tensions are still brewing within the party, as Donald Trump loyalists say they are having trouble getting tickets through the state GOP for the presidential inauguration. (Boston Herald)

A slew of candidates are emerging for the Boston district city council seats in South Boston and Roxbury, which incumbents Bill Linehan and Tito Jackson are considering vacating. (Boston Globe)

Biggest obstacle facing potential challengers to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh? The five zeroes after the $3.4 in his bank account. (Greater Boston)


The New Bedford metropolitan area saw its unemployment rate drop 2.8 percentage points over the last year, the biggest decline of any metropolitan area in the country. Other Massachusetts communities also saw big drops, including Barnstable, Leominster-Gardner, Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, and Boston. (WBUR) A new study says the state labor market is nearing full capacity. (Masslive)

Macy’s will close 65 stores around the country, including two in Massachusetts, and layoff 10,000 employees because of lackluster sales following the holiday shopping season. (New York Times) The stores in Brockton and Taunton, with more than 160 workers, are on the chopping block. (The Enterprise)

Millennium Partners, the high-flying developer looking to build a 55-story tower at the site of the Winthrop Square garage in downtown Boston, looks more like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, as the company neglected to check whether its proposal would violate state law banning buildings from casting shadows on the Boston Common and Public Garden. (It does.) (Boston Globe)

Global currency turmoil and isolationist movements in Europe and the US have sparked heavy speculation investment in the virtual currency Bitcoin, pushing the price of a single Bitcoin to more than $1,000 near the price of an ounce of gold. (New York Times)


Mentally ill patients wait much longer for treatment at emergency rooms than those seeking medical care, and poorer patients on Medicaid wait the longest, according to a new study. (Boston Globe)

Telegram & Gazette columnist Dianne Williamson examines the life of Maxwell Baker, a real person who is now unfortunately another statistic in the opioid struggle.


Lawmakers have sent to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk legislation that would allow for fines of up to $50 for drivers who park or stop in designated bicycle lanes. (Boston Herald)

Marlborough Airport, the state’s oldest privately owned commercial airport, is on the market for $3 million as the owner cited a waning interest in aviation and people learning to fly by simulators rather than in actual planes. (MetroWest Daily News)

Boston’s new significantly increased parking meter rates in prime downtown areas have some drivers steamed. (Boston Herald) But Yvonne Abraham says the move is working exactly as intended by freeing up parking spaces and calls it “visionary.” (Boston Globe)


Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey are part of a group of top state and federal officials pushing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to hold a public hearing on the safety status of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant. (Cape Cod Times)


The Supreme Judicial Court rules that reporters can view, but not copy, a video of the police interrogation of Philip Chism shortly after he killed Danvers teacher Colleen Ritzer. (Salem News) A Salem News editorial lauds the decision.


Boston Globe editor  Brian McGrory unveils his vision for the reinvention of the paper, saying among other things the Globe will no longer look to be the “paper of record,” but rather “an organization of interest” and put more effort into rolling stories out onto the web before print. (Media Nation)

UMass Dartmouth has sold its 9,800-watt radio license to Rhode Island Public Radio for $1.5 million. (Herald News)

In New Jersey, only a few media watchdogs are left. (New York Times)

Bowing to pressure from Chinese officials, Apple has removed the New York Times app from its online store in China. (New York Times)