Do you know who your Sheriff is?

I've been meaning to get back to the quick "quiz" I made up when I was gathering signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The questions began with "Do you know who your Sheriff is?" And the overwhelming majority of people I met and spoke with do not. That's not disinterest or ignorance, most Sheriffs don't really want the voters knowing too much. Anecdotally, I'd put the number at between 5-10% of the people I met who even tried to answer the question getting it right. So here's the scoop: the current Hampshire Sheriff is Patrick Cahillane. He has been at the Hampshire County Jail for 44 years, serving the last 5+ years as Sheriff. Sheriffs in Massachusetts are elected every 6 years, and it's the longest term of public office in the state. But most people know very little about the power of the office and the extent of the Sheriff's influence in the local community. They don't make arrests, nor do they determine sentencing for offenders. But they control the daily experience of individuals in custody. They can grant access to educational programming and open doors to substance abuse treatment and mental health services. And these decisions affect both the amount of time that people are in custody and their experience during it, which in turn--affects whether those individuals are likely to re-offend and return to custody, which impacts the communities in which those offenses take place. Most people think the Sheriff's race doesn't matter because it doesn't affect them unless they know someone who has been locked up, or they have been a victim of crime themselves. But that influence is there, and what we know is that the more people understand about the office, the more people are likely to pay attention to who's in it. #KnowYourSheriff