History and Mission of the Hampden County Sheriff’s Office
The Hampden County Sheriff’s Office has existed in some form since the 1600s. The first Sheriff of Hampden County, West Springfield native Jonathan Smith Jr., was appointed by then Gov. Elbridge Gerry in 1812, shortly after Hampden County was formally established after being part of Hampshire County.
Fast forward a couple hundred years and today the Hampden County Sheriff’s Office is a leader in the evolving paradigm of corrections, community policing and criminal justice reform.
Under retired Sheriff Michael J. Ashe Jr., the office and, frankly, the field of corrections was turned upside down, as Ashe, a trained social worker, took a more methodical and empathetic approach to the role of a jail and sheriff. He instituted programs and created opportunities aimed at treating inmates in a holistic way.
Within a few years of taking office in 1975, Ashe had the data to prove his method was working, as fewer and fewer people were being rearrested for new crimes once they were released from jail. His "firm but fair" motto and determination to begin planning for someone’s successful reentry to the community on day one of incarceration became the international model for any sheriff’s office or correctional facility looking to do more than just guard inmates.
Under the leadership of Sheriff Nick Cocchi, who took office in 2017, the Sheriff’s Office provides a continuum of care designed to empower the justice-involved population to reclaim their liberty through informed and responsible choices and promote their successful re-entry into the community as law-abiding socially and civically responsible citizens.
The Sheriff’s Office enhances public safety through the corrections process by providing offenders proper classification, security, treatment, and programs to accomplish positive lifestyle changes and minimize and/or eradicate negative social traits and criminogenic behaviors.
In the community, Sheriff’s Office staff works to engage the public and provide patrols on the streets, in the parks and on area waterways through advanced community policing efforts. You will also see our staff volunteering their time to help area nonprofits, neighborhood watch groups, and any cause where there is a need that is worthwhile and unmet.
The safety of and service for the public is at the core of all we do.