State, local leaders gather in Ludlow for retired Hampden County Sheriff tribute

Hampden County

An unusual honor was held for retired longtime Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe Tuesday night.

Mike Ashe served as Hampden County Sheriff for more than 40 years. He’s credited with creating many innovative correctional programs that have been replicated across the country. 

Five hundred people gathered for the dedication of a monument in honor of the retired Hampden County Sheriff.

Friends call Ashe “Rocky.” They said seeing “Rocky’s” face in stone was the perfect tribute. 

“Never expected anything like this, and I always figured, I’m the one that should be honoring the public, because they gave me an opportunity,” Ashe told 22News.

A Springfield native and former social worker, Ashe was first elected Sheriff in 1974 and held the position until his retirement in 2016.

In that time, he became a pioneer of modern correctional and rehabilitation practices in western Massachusetts and across the country. 

The Governor, Lieutenant Governor, senators, and sheriffs from across the state joined the hundreds who came to honor Ashe’s legacy Tuesday. 

“Corrections systems all over the country and in this commonwealth that simply adopted the approaches, policies, and programming that Sheriff Ashe made famous,” said Gov. Charlie Baker.

“He has changed the concept of incarceration far beyond the boundaries of Hampden County,” said Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito added, “He believed that every single person was a person of value.”

“He changed the way that we saw the whole notion of rehabilitation,” said Rep. Richard Neal.

The new monument sits outside the Hampden County House of Correction in Ludlow, and reads ‘The good work of this facility is dedicated to Michael J. Ashe.’

“I’m really honored and humbled,” Ashe expressed. “I just feel really good about what we did here every day, establishing not a warehouse, but a correctional facility, so I’m really honored.”

Sheriff Ashe is known for implementing numerous programs to help inmates transition back into the community, and for promoting drug treatment over arrest and incarceration.

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