Last month, The Valley Patriot hosted a substantive debate with the Democratic Party Candidates for Essex County Sheriff, leaving no doubt about the difference between the six candidates. The debate was held at North Andover High School and was sponsored by Colizzi Memorials in Methuen, Minasian and Aziz Law Offices in Lawrence, Myles and Patricia Burke of Berkshire Hathaway Real Estate and Vietnam Veteran Richard Russell.
Seeking to replace the outgoing Sheriff Frank Cousins are: Defense Attorney Ed O’Reilly, retired Corrections Officer Jerry Robito, Lynn Police Chief Kevin Coppinger, Retired DEA Agent Paul Russell, retired Sheriff’s Dept. employee
William Castro, and Michael Marks, superintendent of the Middleton prison.
The Democratic Party candidates for Essex County Sheriff were reminded of the time that the Valley Patriot was lied to by the Sheriff’s spokesman who told us in 2011 that there were no pre-trial detainees being held at “The Farm” or the Correctional Alternative Center (CAC). We then filmed for three days as pre-trial prisoners were loaded into the CAC.
Pre-trial detainees are people who have been arrested and are awaiting trial. Because they have not been found guilty of a crime and are only accused in the eyes of the law, they cannot be “punished”, (IE given the same treatment as prisoners who have been convicted and serving an actual sentence.) These are generally people who cannot make bail for whatever reason and the law says they cannot be held in the same quarters as sentenced inmates.
As an editor’s note: The Valley Patriot did several exposes on the issue from 2011 to 2015, including an inmate named James Walsh, who had 42 arrests, (some for violent offenses), who escaped from the CAC twice, only to be put back at the minimum security facility … to walk away a third time.
While the question asked was about the way the newspaper was lied to about pre-trial detainees being held at the farm, a side discussion emerged as retired corrections officer Jerry Robito took the current Middleton Superintendent Michael Marks to task for the types of inmates being housed with pre-trial detainees at “the farm”.
MARKS: “I’d just like to first clarify that it’s not against the law to put pretrial detainees at the CAC. It’s a very important piece of the reentry initiative, and what’s happening in this country is the over-incarceration of people, and it’s giving people that are on a low bail and minor charges an opportunity to not be in jail.”
Marks said that there was a change to Massachusetts General law Ch. 127 (20B) that allows the sheriff to send pretrial inmates home if he chooses, even though there’s a bail on them.
“Our pretrial population is 70% of the population in the Middleton facility. A lot of them are held on relatively low bails. So, we made a decision that we were going to open up a unit at the Correctional Alternative Center and move pre-trial inmates there.”
“They go through the same process that the other inmates go through, a five person classification board. There are stipulations within the law that don’t allow for certain charges to go there. We have set closer criteria on it where we don’t send people there with bail over $10,000, and we make sure they don’t have significant criminal histories.”
“People have said we send people there that are on no bail. That’s not true.”
Jerry Robito then held up a press clipping showing an individual who had no bail, and was placed at the CAC.
MARKS: “If you check his record he came in as a probation violator.”
ROBITO: “He had no bail on him. No bail. No bail.”
MARKS: “Probation… They only owe the time that was suspended …
ROBITO: “So, this is a lie? It’s a lie” he asked while holding up a press clipping.
MARKS: “It’s misinformation.”
ROBITO: “It’s from your spokesman.”
MAKRS: “He’s not my spokesman. I don’t have a spokesman.”
ROBITO: “He spoke for you.”
MARKS: “He’s part of the Sheriff’s team. I run the correctional facility. I have no jurisdiction over that.”
ROBITO: “I’m sorry, he’s on your team. But, he was a spokesman at the time. This is what he gave to the Eagle Tribune.”
MARKS: “I have no explanation for why he said that. You have used that in another forum that we had, you used that same one, and just to make sure I was correct I checked the record on that, it was a probation violation.”
WILLIAM CASTRO: “I don’t think we should have pretrial detainees there at the farm. I’ve worked at the CAC. I’ve worked there, trust me when I tell you. They are not segregated. They are free to roam from one place to the other … it’s absolutely insane. They cross from one place to the other to the sentenced inmates [and] to the pre-trial. Trust me, I worked there. Jerry [Robito] you worked there …”
ROBITO: “100% correct.”
MARKS: “I just said that. I agree with that. They sleep in their own separate area and they are out in the compound with everybody else. These are men that can’t pay a thousand dollar bail and they have to come to jail and it costs significant amounts of money to be in there in hard cells. So, it’s a risk business, and if we weren’t willing to take a risk we wouldn’t have a CAC. We would have everybody in Middleton and we would have 1,600 guys sleeping on the floor in the gym. But, we have to have re-entry plans. We have to give these men and women the tools they need to come back to the communities [as] better people.”
“It’s a risk business. And I can tell you it’s a much higher risk to leave these men and women locked up with nothing, and then just release them to the streets to their buddies that they were hanging with, with no tools. That’s a bigger risk. That’s why reentry is a national thing. It’s something that’s really happening. It’s not just care, custody, and control. It’s care, custody, control, and reentry. Anyone who qualifies for our reentry needs to be given a shot.”
ROBITO: “I just want an answer from the superintendent. Is it true that five sentenced inmates that went through the drug and alcohol program in Middleton, OD’d and were taken to the hospital down at the farm and treated, and three days later there were two more? Is that true or false?”
MARKS: “That’s true.”
ROBITO: “Thank you.”
MARKS: “Relapse is part of addiction.”
ROBITO: “So, there’s your care, custody, and control.”