Bombshell study analyzes money in politics data from 11 states, including Massachusetts
Good-government groups Common Cause and Communities for Sheriff Accountability released a doozy of a new report today. Boldly titled “The Paid Jailer: How Sheriff Campaign Dollars Shape Mass Incarceration,” the comprehensive study “looks at the conflicts of interest and ethics issues raised by the political giving of corporations and individuals seeking contracts and business with these law enforcement agencies.”
“The research, conducted in 11 states, documents approximately 13,000 apparent conflicts of interest, primarily between 2011 and 2021. The findings identified upward of $6 million, approximately 40% of all examined contributions, that create potential conflicts of interest.”
[Read the Dig’s reporting on prisons and parole in Mass here]
And yes, Mass is front and center.
“The financial and related data in the report was collected from a representative cross-section of 48 sheriffs across the United States, including in Massachusetts’ Barnstable, Berkshire, Bristol, Essex, Hampden, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk, and Worcester counties.”
Below are some of the revelations about Mass in the report. None are surprising, but that doesn’t make them any less outrageous …
In Bristol County, Massachusetts, more than 30 people have died behind bars in the last 10 years. Overwhelmingly, these are people awaiting trial. Some have died because of substance withdrawal and others by suicide. And the people who remain incarcerated say that they’re not receiving basic health care, including one man in Bristol County who has given us permission to share his story anonymously. Yet Thomas M. Hodgson, the longtime sheriff of Bristol County and the sole leader of the jail facility, has made no changes to the health care provider, CPS Healthcare. CPS has spent more than $20,365 on sheriffs’ campaigns in Massachusetts, and $12,040 has gone directly to Hodgson. The State of Massachusetts reports that state sheriffs paid a total of $9.82 million in contracts to CPS Healthcare from 2012 to 2021.
Massachusetts sheriffs received up to $2,686,129 in potentially conflicted donations across just 13 sheriffs’ campaigns, with sheriffs in these five counties being the top recipients: Suffolk County, $319,002; Bristol County, $324,870; Hampden County, $396,604; Worcester County, $504,516; and Plymouth County, $738,008.
In Massachusetts, NaphCare paid at least $7,100 to Suffolk County Sheriff Tompkins’s campaign. At the same time, 31 incarcerated persons died under the dubious care of Sheriff Tompkins and NaphCare in the Suffolk County Jail.59 Per life lost under NaphCare’s treatment, the Tompkins campaign took in $229 from the company.
At least $216,847 in contributions to sheriff candidates from a range of telecom and technology companies. Approximately $12,000 of this amount was given by companies that solely deal in the law enforcement and incarceration sector, while the remainder of companies have various kinds of relationships to law enforcement. Securus, like Wellpath, operates under the umbrella of H.I.G Private Equity. Securus is reported to hold at least 2,600 contracts, and the company’s name shows up in sheriffs’ campaign finance reports across the country. The corporation already holds jail communication contracts in Norfolk and Essex Counties (Massachusetts) and is actively courting other sheriffs’ offices.
Two Securus representatives are responsible for more than $7,000 in contributions to the sheriffs in Essex, Hampden,64 Middlesex, and Norfolk counties in Massachusetts. One of these donors has confusingly listed her company and occupation in different ways for different sheriffs, making it more difficult to gain the full picture of Securus’s operations in Massachusetts and perhaps elsewhere.
Read the whole report here.