LUDLOW, Mass. (WWLP) – A long-running program through the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department was highlighted as a country-wide role model for its work transitioning formerly incarcerated people back to society.

The All Inclusive Support Services program was founded by the Sheriff’s Department in 1996. Literally, the first re-entry program in the country, turning heads in the tough-on-crime era. Today, it continues to blaze a trail for support programs, transitioning more than 1,500 people a year successfully back to society.

“Once they have accepted treatment and accepted they can be a member of society. We want to provide a path. Recidivism and mental health are linked, so to get out from in an affirmative way is very important and the sheriff has led the way,” said Congressman Richard Neal.

The program boasts one of the lowest re-offense rates in the country. Their success rate and the cooperative, inter-agency strategy to achieve that rate, highlighted during a tour and roundtable discussion Thursday.

The event Thursday showcased this program as a nation model for corrections but in order to be successful it also has to command respect from the community. One statistic brought up during the presentation proves this program does just that.

“60 percent of people that walk through the doors come on their own, they come on their own. They are volunteers. Why? Because there is a relationship built. They don’t want to disappoint,” said Sheriff Nick Cocchi.

That strategy has transformed the lives of more than 36,000 people since the program was founded, a legacy to be proud of.