Mass. candidates in the 2022 sheriff races, in their own words

Click on a name below to read the candidate's response to WBUR's questionnaire. Entries were lightly edited to meet style guidelines by The Associated Press, and incorrect claims were addressed in an attached editor's note. Not every claim could be verified. We note below if the candidate failed to return our questionnaire.

Barnstable County: Timothy R. WhelanDonna D. Buckley

Berkshire County: Thomas N. Bowler

Bristol County: Paul Heroux | Thomas M. Hodgson

Dukes County: Robert Ogden

Essex County: Kevin F. Coppinger

Franklin County: Christopher J. Donelan

Hampden County:  Nick Cocchi

Hampshire County: Patrick J. Cahillane

Middlesex County: Peter J. Koutoujian

Nantucket County: James A. Perelman | David J. Aguiar

Norfolk County: Patrick W. McDermott

Plymouth County Joseph Daniel McDonald, Jr.

Suffolk County: Steven W. Tompkins

Worcester County: Lewis G. Evangelidis | David M. Fontaine

Timothy R. Whelan

Barnstable County Sheriff | Republican | Open seat

Did not provide answers to WBUR's voter questionnaire.

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Donna D. Buckley

Barnstable County Sheriff | Democrat | Open seat

About Donna D. Buckley: Donna is an attorney who spent the last four years working as the general counsel in the Barnstable County Sheriff's Office. A member of the executive leadership team, she was involved in all aspects of the sheriff’s office operations. She worked closely with other sheriff’s offices as well as the Massachusetts Sheriff’s Association.

What does Buckley consider the key issues in this race? Main issues include: (a) the inability of the sheriff’s office to recruit and retain staff which puts pressure on the remaining staff, resulting in forced overtime and extensive use of sick leave for employees who are tired and overworked; and (b) lack of focus on the true mission of the sheriff’s office. The sheriff's responsibility is care and custody of inmates. Investing in correction, treatment and rehabilitation is the only approach that will truly make our community stronger and everyone safer. When inmates get the treatment they need the likelihood of them reoffending when they are released is lower. That is true public safety.

What are Buckley's top priorities for the office? We will modernize and professionalize our mission, train and equip our team, and shift our focus so that the men and women who come to the Barnstable County House of Correction — and the men and women who work there — all have a chance at success.

This will include elevating inmate services to an executive level position, treating rehabilitation as an equal partner with safety and security; designing pre-release programming so that inmates about to be released are prepared to return to their communities; implementing internal addiction and mental health treatment programs which are linked to the non-profit, clinical and medical community on the outside so that inmates have a continuum of care after being released; reviving important programs like community work crews and the sheriff’s tent, efforts that not only provided inmates with important training and community engagement, but benefitted the communities and non-profits in every corner of Cape Cod.

We will ensure gender equality so that female inmates have the same access to treatment and programming as males, and we will institute specific programming for veterans, recognizing that those who have served and were once prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for our nation face unique challenges. We will be a community partner by ensuring climate friendly decisions including solar power and electric vehicles. We will commit in writing to support local police departments by agreeing to house arrestees pre-arraignment. We will end the agreement between the Barnstable County Sheriff's Office and ICE.


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Thomas N. Bowler

Berkshire County Sheriff | Democrat | Unopposed

Did not provide answers to WBUR's voter questionnaire.

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Paul Heroux

Bristol County Sheriff | Democrat | Challenger

About Paul Heroux: I am currently the mayor of Attleboro and was a state representative. I am an experienced prison and jail administrator, with a master's in criminology from the University of Pennsylvania, a master's in public administration from Harvard, and a bachelor’s in psychology and neuroscience from the University of Southern California.

What does Heroux consider the key issues in this race? There are two main problems. The first is the high rate of recidivism and the lack of discharge planning. Bristol County has the highest rate of recidivism in the state. The current approach is not keeping people as safe as they could be. The second issue is staff retention.

What are Heroux's top priorities for the office?
1) I want to make sure that inmates are participating in programs that will reduce recidivism. We need to make sure there is enough reoffending-reducing programming for inmates and make sure the programs work, doing more of what works and reforming what doesn't. This is not currently going on. Discharge planning includes making sure that the inmate being released knows where to go for housing, health care, and a job and/or job training. Setting them up with getting an ID before release. These are the pillars of prisoner reentry.

2) Since budgets reflect priorities, look at the budget to reflect new priorities. There are things currently done that don’t have anything to do with running a jail. Doing this will free up money to address low staff wages, increase the number of corrections officers working at the Bristol County Sheriff's Office, and increase programming and discharge planning.

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Thomas M. Hodgson

Bristol County Sheriff | Republican | Incumbent

About Thomas M. Hodgson: Law enforcement professional with more than three decades in public safety, including being the sheriff of Bristol County for the past 25 years.

What does Hodgson consider the key issues in this race? Public safety is the number one issue for the sheriff's office. The region, and frankly the entire country, has been hammered by fentanyl, heroin and other dangerous, addictive drugs that are destroying families. The sheriff's office plays a key role by working with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to investigate, apprehend and rehabilitate drug dealers.

What are Hodgson's top priorities for the office? First, to increase the general public safety of the people of Bristol County. Too many people are being victimized by lawbreakers, and that needs to stop. Secondly, I want to expand youth programs so we can reach at-risk kids before they break the law and enter the criminal justice system. Also, we want to expand vocational and other programming options at the house of corrections to better prepare inmates for careers upon release.

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Robert Ogden

Dukes County Sheriff | Democrat | Unopposed

About Robert Ogden: My entire professional life has been with the Dukes County Sheriff’s Office, spanning a 32-year career in corrections, culminating in being elected sheriff in 2016. I am a husband, father, dedicated community member, and passionate legislative advocate. I am honored to be the 2022 Democratic nominee for Dukes County Sheriff.

What does Ogden consider the key issues in this race? We must continue the progress made last term; we improved the safety of our community through a completely updated communications system and increased transparency through public safety advisory board committees. We increased employee incomes across the board and introduced wellness programming. Our efforts were recognized by a clean bill of fiscal health we received from the State Auditor’s Performance and Compliance Audit in 2019. I secured over $14 million in state funding for Dukes County Sheriff's Office, including $6 million allocated for future repair and replacement of our aging facilities, to include housing units for females.

What are Ogden's top priorities for the office? As sheriff, I am committed to continued progress. With the stable foundation we have created during my first term, I have a clear vision for the future. It includes a new facility that will combine the regional jail, house of correction and lockup, allowing for female housing units; as well as trial court and potentially state police barracks. We have taken first steps in this long-term plan by securing the status of the regional lockup by legislation, and having worked with the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance on the life and safety upgrades to our current facility, while we plan for a new one. In my next term as Dukes County Sheriff, I will leverage our upgraded E911 communications system in anticipation of integration with the commonwealth’s upgraded digital-based CoMIRS (Commonwealth of Massachusetts Interoperable Radio System) network that would improve emergency communications interoperability and connect us regionally to other first responder networks.

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Kevin F. Coppinger

Essex County Sheriff | Democrat | Unopposed

About Kevin F. Coppinger: Coppinger was first elected Essex County Sheriff in November 2016 after having served the city of Lynn as a police officer for 32 years, serving the last seven years as chief of police. Holding both master's and bachelor's degrees in criminal justice, Coppinger is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

What does Coppinger consider the key issues in this race? In addition to the basic responsibilities of operating safe and secure facilities for all who work, visit or reside there, today's focus also includes enhanced inmate treatment, rehabilitation and re-entry services based on evidenced-based practices, including a variety of programming opportunities according to need. Specific areas include, but are not limited to, providing services for those suffering from substance use disorders and/or mental health concerns, offering educational and vocational training, and an expanded effort for successful inmate re-entry upon release in partnership with local community providers.

What are Coppinger's top priorities for the office? When speaking of priorities related to those in our custody, our goal is to have them return to their communities upon release in a better condition than when they first arrived at our facilities. "Re-Entry starts day one" is a term we embrace and that will remain one of our driving factors. We will continue to look at the "root causes" of crime and what factors play a role with those involved in the justice system. We will remain diligent in seeking out and implementing national best practices in order to provide the best services available to those in our care. We will remain focused on re-entry services not only inside our facilities but also in our community-based centers by bringing new and enhanced programs and opportunities for those in need.

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Christopher J. Donelan

Franklin County Sheriff | Democrat | Unopposed

Did not provide answers to WBUR's voter questionnaire.

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Nick Cocchi

Hampden County Sheriff | Democrat | Unopposed

About Nick Cocchi: Nick Cocchi began his career as a correctional officer with the Hampden County Sheriff’s Office, working his way through the ranks to be elected as sheriff. He earned his bachelor's degree in government from Western New England University and his master’s in business administration from Elms College.

What does Cocchi consider the key issues in this race? Since over 80% of the people who come into our custody self-report having some level of struggle with substance use disorder (SUD), we consider SUD a central issue. We have multi-faceted, evidence-based programming offering a multitude of different paths to long-term recovery. We operate the largest medication-assisted treatment program in the commonwealth, which treats SUD with one of the three FDA-approved drugs. That program also includes individual and group therapy. We have recovery coaches with lived experience and correctional counselors who ensure that upon a person’s release, the next step of their treatment plan meets them where they are.

What are Cocchi's top priorities for the office? In my next term, we will continue to effectively and humanely rehabilitate justice-involved individuals in our care and custody, providing them opportunities for a better life post-release to uplift them and the entire community. We will continue to provide new vocational training programs that build upon some of the highly desirable skills currently being taught in areas ranging from our arborist program to advance manufacturing. The fact that we have one of the lowest recidivism rates in the nation is a testament to how our approach to corrections positively affects the public. In the community, our office operates several programs and initiatives which focus on crime prevention and community engagement as a means to enhance public safety. We believe that by excelling in our efforts both behind the walls of the institutions and in the streets of the communities we serve, we are putting the public first and injecting equity into our communities by offering opportunities. On the streets and in the schools, parks and waterways of our communities, my team will continue to have a positive presence preventing crime with targeted community outreach, youth engagement, public safety engagement focused on intervention and delivering unmet needs.

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Patrick J. Cahillane

Hampshire County Sheriff | Democrat | Unopposed

Did not provide answers to WBUR's voter questionnaire.

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Peter J. Koutoujian

Middlesex County Sheriff | Democrat | Unopposed

About Peter J. Koutoujian: I’m the current sheriff as well as a former public defender, prosecutor and legislator. I hold degrees from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government (MPA), the New England School of Law (JD), and Bridgewater State University (BS). I’m also a lifelong Waltham resident along with my wife and three children.

What does Koutoujian consider the key issues in this race? Our core mission is to provide individuals who experience incarceration, especially while struggling with substance use or mental health disorders, with the resources and supports necessary to secure a successful and lasting reentry into society.

I believe that the best reentry is no entry into the criminal justice system. However, for those that have already experienced incarceration, my job is to start their reentry journey on day one. While resources and staffing are perennial issues facing any large agency, we continue to be innovative and imaginative in how we can best provide care for those in our custody.

What are Koutoujian's top priorities for the office? As sheriff, I’ve developed innovative correctional programs that have become national models. Our programs focus on specialized, data-driven treatment for unique populations such as young adults, military veterans and those living with substance use disorders. These programs have substantially reduced recidivism, with their results being published in academic journals, featured by national news outlets and labeled as best practices by multiple presidential administrations.

While I’m immensely proud of these programs, I also believe that you shouldn’t have to come to jail to get good treatment. I continue to commit myself to building community-based care options for individuals suffering from behavioral health issues, and more opportunities for diversion from the criminal justice system.

Another top priority of mine is officer wellness. Our dedicated staff work challenging jobs on behalf of the greater good. I’m proud to work alongside these folks and intend to continue hiring, training and retaining the type of talented employees who have launched our agency as a national leader in corrections.

Although I’m unopposed this election, I encourage everyone to get out and vote on Nov. 8. I also hope to earn their vote as we continue building on the proud history and bright future at the Middlesex Sheriff's Office.

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James A. Perelman

Nantucket County Sheriff | Democrat | Incumbent

Did not provide answers to WBUR's voter questionnaire.

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David J. Aguiar

Nantucket County Sheriff | Independent | Challenger

Did not provide answers to WBUR's voter questionnaire.

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Patrick W. McDermott

Norfolk County Sheriff | Democrat | Unopposed

Did not provide answers to WBUR's voter questionnaire.

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Joseph Daniel McDonald, Jr.

Plymouth County Sheriff | Republican | Unopposed

Did not provide answers to WBUR's voter questionnaire.

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Steven W. Tompkins

Suffolk County Sheriff | Democrat | Unopposed

Did not provide answers to WBUR's voter questionnaire.

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Lewis G. Evangelidis

Worcester County Sheriff | Republican | Incumbent

Did not provide answers to WBUR's voter questionnaire.

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David M. Fontaine

Worcester County Sheriff's | Democrat | Challenger

Did not provide answers to WBUR's voter questionnaire.

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Freelance journalist Jesse Remedios contributed to this reporting.

With some data and images of the candidates provided by Govpack, an organization that partners with journalists to collect and distribute candidate information.



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