The Sheriff Strikes Back

Instead of freeing dangerous prisoners to ease overcrowding, a Massachusetts lawman seizes a National Guard armory

It was an act that brought a flush of pride to beleaguered lawmen across the country. In western Massachusetts, Michael Ashe, for 15 years sheriff of Hampden County, decided to challenge at last a prison system that had failed him. His overcrowded county jail, built in 1887 to hold 279 prisoners, bulged < with 450. Frustrated judges in Springfield, Mass., were forced to stay sentences for convicted criminals because there was simply no place to lock them up. A new phrase cropped up for the judicial impasse: convicted without correctional space. Last month 30 offenders walked free from Springfield courtrooms after...

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