The functions and mission of the American Sheriff’s Office vary greatly by individual jurisdiction. The reason for this phenomenon is that the Office of Sheriff has adapted and evolved to suit the needs of the individual communities that it serves. In the Southern, Midwestern and Western regions of the United States the Sheriff’s Office performs local police patrol duties as well as acting as the keeper of the local county jail, court security and the service of civil process.
But in Massachusetts this is not generally the case. The primary mission of the office of sheriff in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is county corrections and the service of civil process. This is a product of our history and geography.
As the keeper of the county jail and house of correction, the Sheriff is in charge of corrections at the county level. What this means in a practical sense is that the sheriff’s office handles inmates who are sentenced by the courts to house of correction terms of incarceration of up to 2 ½ years in duration. If an inmate is sentenced by the court to a term of incarceration that exceeds 2 ½ years on any single criminal count, then he or she will likely serve that sentence in a state prison run by the Massachusetts Department of Corrections.
In addition, all local arrestees and pre-trial defendants who are held without bail or who are unable to post bail as set by the courts will also be held at the county jail in the custody of the sheriff.
Thus, the primary function of the Massachusetts Sheriff is that of county corrections.
But there is much more to the sheriff’s office than simply the jail and house of corrections. At the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department we strive to be an integral part of the greater public safety system. We provide vital communications services to our local fire departments and emergency medical services (mutual aid and county medical emergency dispatch (CMED)), as well as significant support services to our local police departments through our Safekeep Regional Lock-up Program, our K-9 Unit and our Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI). These regional services are effectively utilized by our local public safety agencies to enhance their capabilities and increase their effectiveness, while at the same time saving the taxpayers money.
In addition to our correctional and public safety missions, we strive to be a resource to our communities. Programs such as our inmate print shop, our horticultural program, and our inmate work crews (Project Labor) have saved our local communities millions of dollars in goods and services over the last several years, while at the same time providing educational and rehabilitative opportunities to our inmates.