LUDLOW, Mass. (WWLP) – Sheriff Nick Cocchi has decided to temporarily stop sending inmates to the Roderick Ireland Courthouse in Springfield until the hazardous environmental health situation is rectified.
When inmates are sent to the courthouse for hearings and other court related business they can sit for several hours in the holding cells. The holding cells were one of the key areas where mold was found prior to the building’s most recent closure. Cocchi said he made the decision based on his responsibility for the health and safety of inmates and his staff.
“I can’t in good conscience send the justice-involved people in my care to the Hampden County Hall of Justice to sit in the lock-up for hours on end without knowing that the building is indeed safe. I am responsible for the wellbeing of these inmates and I have to be their voice. If the building isn’t safe enough for the individuals who work there, it isn’t safe enough for the inmates either,” said Cocchi.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the sheriff’s department has made video appearances available for inmates. As long as the courts stand prepared to hold any scheduled hearings remotely, all proceedings are expected to take place as scheduled.
State officials shut down the courthouse on Aug. 27, after several county officials led by Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni vacated the building due to health concerns. The building was reopened Thursday morning following cleaning and inspection, but Gulluni and other department heads are also not yet returning to the building fulltime, pending an independent assessment confirming the building is safe to work in.
Sheriff Cocchi has sent members of his administration to the courthouse to inspect the remediation efforts, and they are contacting the Executive Office of the Trial Court to obtain the official environmental reviews, and discuss ongoing concerns.