Sheriff Nicholas Cocchi had Congressman Richard Neal (D) at the Hampden County Jail to show him the facility and how the inmates are making a positive impact during the pandemic.
The York Street Industries Program teaches incarcerated individuals manufacturing skills. These skills can help translate to good-paying jobs post- release.
"There are many dimensions to American life and a second chance is part of it,” said Neal. “I think what they've is they have embraced a great sense of optimism that if you use your time here correctly, you can gain reentry with a skill set."
The inmates are paid a stipend for their work but they are also being recognized for their dedication. They have helped make personal protective equipment in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. The program shifted from normal daily operations to focus on mask production. The masks not only go for in house needs but for all Sheriff’s Departments in the state, local first responders, parole, funeral homes, medical agencies, and other essential workers. Cocchi said this is the strongest program they have to give the incarcerated added skills and a sense of purpose.
"We have to earn it. We have to work hard for it. Nobody gives us anything but we should all be given the equal opportunity to grasp and make what we want our future and thats what this is about,” said Cocchi. “I’ll never turn it into a political football."
Neal added that program and Cocchi are both recognized all around the country for these efforts.
"This facility is a reflection of the sheriff’s personality and if you want to get back into society, they are only too happy to assist,” said Neal.
In a time and a place where some may not have trust for law enforcement, Cocchi said they will continue to be part of the solution. He also said the interest of the people they serve is put in front of their own. Cocchi and Neal both mentioned that this program allows the staff to give inmates the opportunity to make a positive impact.
"It’s our job to help play our part in helping rejuvenate and reenergize and bring back that trust,” said Cocchi. “How do you do it? You do it by treating people humanely, fairly and giving people opportunity."
So far at facility they have made more than 67,000 pieces of PPE including face masks, face shields and gowns.