Neal Maciel of Tisbury is a lifelong Island resident. He began his career in law enforcement with the Tisbury Police and later served with the Registry of Motor Vehicles. He became a State Police officer when the state merged police agencies. He was later promoted to sergeant. His responsibilities included working closely with the assistant district attorney, and police liaison to the Wampanoag Tribe Child Protection Team, Connect to End Violence and the Martha’s Vineyard School system.
He is married to Marilyn Maciel. The couple has a son.
Please tell us why you decided to challenge the incumbent sheriff?
After doing the research and speaking with my family, I decided to give up my position as station commander at the Oak Bluffs State Police barrack and retire to run for sheriff. This campaign was born out of my frustration. For too long, the current sheriff has ignored attempts to work with him in areas of concern: Importing criminals to our community, not doing more to combat the access of drugs and other contraband by inmates, employee training, more reliable communications for all emergency personnel, and limited housing for female inmates.
Please describe what you believe are your qualifications to supervise the sheriff’s department budget and the jail/house of correction?
I know this Island and its people. This is my home. My experience with the state police will allow me to implement a strong chain of command. Absent a strong chain of command, any agency with a rank structure will become dysfunctional. I have supervised anywhere from five to 30 troopers during my career in the state police. With the recent state takeover of the sheriff’s department, this administration has had to learn state systems that I have been using for years. I have worked in the court system as the state police prosecutor for the last 15 years; I know the issues that need to be addressed.
My style of leadership is inclusive. I do not rule by intimidation or fear.
Nantucket sends convicted felons to the Barnstable House of Correction, which appears to have space enough to accommodate island prisoners. Comment on the option of using the current Dukes County facility as a central lock-up and jail, but sending people convicted and sentenced to serve time in a house of correction to the Barnstable facility, the way Nantucket does.
I believe a person should do his or her time in the community where they committed the crime. However in cases of safety, overcrowding, or to take advantage of programs not offered here or to redesign the jail for the inclusion of female inmates, the Barnstable Jail would be an option I would consider.
The Airport Master Plan, completed in 2002, includes a proposal to construct a new 79-bed county jail/house of correction to be built on airport property, to house male and female prisoners serving 2.5 years or less. Do you support the construction of a new jail/house of correction on airport property, and of what size?
We need a new jail. I believe a smaller jail is enough to service the needs of the police departments in this county. We need a larger booking area to allow more than one arrestee to be processed at a time. I believe the airport is a good location, central to most of the towns, and [placement there would] remove the jail from the current residential area.
I am against the current sheriff’s planned 80-bed facility that can only be filled with off-Island inmates. I am for a smaller 50-bed facility that includes female beds. We need a new jail not only because of the lack of female cells or booking room space. We need a new jail because of the safety concerns of fire officials.
Some high profile prisoners have been sentenced to the Dukes House of Correction. These include the brother of Charles Stuart, a pedophile priest, and a Saudi prince. The public thinks the Dukes County House of Correction is an easy place to serve a sentence, so offenders want to serve their time here. Please comment on that perception.
Perception is often reality; this perception needs to be corrected. I will oppose any transfer of inmates who have not committed their crime or not been sentenced in this jurisdiction. This jail cannot be a dumping ground for off-Island inmates.
I believe the inmate should understand first and foremost he is in jail. The inmates must understand that rehab and support programs are there for them, but they must also know the loss of privileges or further criminal charges will be the result of their inappropriate or illegal actions.
I have been criticized for stating the need to strip-search prisoners returning from work release. The current administration does not allow this, which results in illegal drugs and other contraband getting into the jail, which is a major problem. We can’t rehabilitate inmates when they can’t get off the drugs that put them in jail in the first place.
Island police say they are concerned that dangerous felons have been introduced to the Vineyard community through the Dukes house of correction. There have been several cases in which felons have requested that they serve their sentences on the Vineyard. Please comment on the extent to which the sheriff has control over prisoner assignments.
As station commander, I was also concerned about the many individuals that the public was not aware of that were sent here from off-Island jails and that when released relocated and reoffended here.
I believe in general most judges are reluctant to sentence individuals outside of the jurisdiction the crime was committed in without consulting the sheriff first. If this became a problem, I would seek relief through legislation that excludes the Dukes County Jail from receiving inmates sentenced outside this county, unless approved by the sheriff. The nature of this community and the threat [such inmates] pose to the safety of its residents demands this course of action.
Please describe current programs you would change or eliminate and new ones you would introduce. And discuss the differences in the sheriff’s job since the state takeover of the department.
I think it is premature to talk about eliminating any programs or personnel until there is a complete review and audit of the sheriff’s department.
Over time, I would implement an Inmate Community Construction Team. This team would be on a volunteer basis and work to train/prepare inmates for return to the workforce. I utilized a team from the Barnstable County Jail to complete a remodeling project over the last two years at the Oak Bluffs State Police Barracks, saving taxpayers thousands of dollars.
A K-9 unit working in the sheriff’s department is key to keeping the jail free of illegal drugs and would be a great asset to local police departments.