LUDLOW, Mass. (WWLP) – Sheriff Nick Cocchi announced Friday that over the past several months more than a dozen inmates released by the courts due to the COVID-19 pandemic have been re-arrested by the department’s apprehension team after committing new crimes in the community.
According to Hampden County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Robert Rizzuto, the crimes committed by these individuals include assault and battery on a household member, assault and battery on a pregnant victim, distribution of cocaine, subsequent offense, and assault and battery on a child with injury.
According to Rizzuto, one of these individuals, who was previously released, cut off his GPS monitoring device and was later arrested for carjacking and armed robbery.
“What we have here are repeat offenders leaving more victims in the community after having been released early over COVID-19 concerns. This is a very dangerous situation for the public,” Sheriff Nick Cocchi said. “I have ordered my apprehension team along with our law enforcement task force partners to locate and arrest these individuals to bring them to justice.”
The state Supreme Judicial Court on April 3 ordered the Massachusetts Trial Courts to review certain individuals for presumptive release from custody after filing a lawsuit to compel mass releases from jails across Massachusetts in light of COVID-19.
Since then, there have been 2,479 releases from county jails across the Commonwealth including 412 from Hampden County.
Rizzuto said Sheriff Cocchi’s concerns about early releases have centered on the lack of time to establish dependable release plans, the continuing difficulty in establishing bridges to community-based services for substance use disorder, and the level of seriousness of the crimes that some of the people being released are accused of committing.
Since the SJC ruling, the courts have ordered the release of individuals accused of serious crimes such as the following:
- Aggravated rape of a child
- Paying for sex with a child under 14
- Failure to register as a sex offender
- Assault with intent to murder
- Assault & battery on a family/household member
- Assault & battery on a child with injury
- Assault & battery on a police officer
“The safety of the public is my top concern,” Sheriff Cocchi added. “I pledge to do everything in my power to ensure we are not allowing offenders to re-offend in our communities.”