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ACLU Calls Sheriff's Proposal For Inmates To Build Mexican Border Wall 'Perverse'

BOSTON (CBS) -- A proposal by the Bristol County Sheriff to offer up inmates to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico is drawing fire from the ACLU.

"The idea of the project is just really perverse," Laura Rotolo, staff counsel for the ACLU of Massachusetts, told WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Ben Parker Thursday. "It's inhumane and it's very likely unconstitutional, and it certainly has nothing to do with helping people, prisoners, families in Massachusetts themselves."

On Wednesday, Sheriff Thomas Hodgson made the offer as part of his debuting of Project N.I.C.E., which stands for National Inmates' Community Endeavors.

Tom Hodgson
Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson (WBZ-TV)

"I can think of no other project that would have such a positive impact on our inmates and our country than building this wall," Sheriff Hodgson said at his fourth inauguration Wednesday night.

During the presidential campaign, Trump vowed to wall off the Mexican border, and make Mexico foot the bill, which some estimates put around $25 billion. Hodgson did not specify who would pay to transport the prisoners, or where they would live during the construction.

Rotolo said the proposal from Sheriff Hodgson was "not surprising."

"It's an abhorrent plan, but he has done inhumane things in the past," said Rotolo. "He tried to bring back the chain gang. He tried to institute a plan where prisoners would have to pay the county to be incarcerated, which is something that the courts and the legislature have already rejected ... Sheriff Hodgson is a vocal anti-immigrant person in Massachusetts, he likes to be in the national media, so we're not too surprised to hear this from him."

Border wall
Wall along U.S.-Mexico border (WBZ-TV)


Rotolo clarified that the ACLU supports programs of rehabilitation for inmates--such as job training--that have a positive track record, but said Hodgson's proposition is not one of those.

"It's not about rehabilitation," Rotolo said. "It's about politics, it's about more fame for Sheriff Hodgson, and it's about riding this wave of hate and racism."

Matthew Segal, legal director at the ACLU of Massachusetts, said the Sheriff's proposal seems like a gimmick. He added the ACLU will fight the proposal if it goes forward.

"It is especially horrible to use modern day slave labor to build something that shouldn't be built in the first place," he said. "The ACLU will use every tool in our toolkit to stop it, and that can include litigation."

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Ben Parker reports

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