Dukes County Sheriff oversees three vital agencies

The entrance to the Dukes County Jail in Edgartown. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The primary and the upcoming general election will decide who will replace Dukes County Sheriff Michael McCormack, who is retiring after 42 years on the job, 18 years as sheriff.

The Dukes County Sheriff’s department is responsible for the county jail, house of correction, civil process, and the Island communications center, which handles all emergency 911 calls and public safety communications, and fulfills a variety of other programs and duties.

The department’s operating budget in the current fiscal year is $3.64 million. This includes the main legislative appropriation as well as already received and/or anticipated funding under Internal Service Agreements with the State 911 Department, Trial Court/Office of Community Corrections, Department of Transportation, Department of Public Health, and Department of Capital Asset Management.

As of August 26, 2016, the active employee roster has 47, a number that includes 27 full-time and three part-time jail and house of corrections staff, including shared administrative personnel; seven full-time and three part-time Regional Emergency Communications Center staff; five assigned to the Community Corrections Center; one full-time civil process server; and one DARE officer.

The salary for the job, set by state law and unchanged since 2014, is $119,700. The current jail/house of correction is located on Upper Main Street in Edgartown. It was originally built in 1873, and provides secure lockup facilities for all six Island towns. It holds a maximum of 36 inmates. Currently, there are 19 people in the house of correction.

County jail
The Dukes County jail is for inmates awaiting court hearings or trial, and in some cases, those who have been sentenced to jail. By law, the house of correction and the jail must be physically separated, but the state has granted a waiver to the Dukes County jail because of the physical layout of the antiquated building.

There are very limited facilities for women in the building. Generally, only women who are arrested and will be arraigned the next day spend time in the facility. Women who are awaiting trial, and those ordered to serve a sentence, are transported off-Island, most often to the Barnstable County House of Correction.

House of correction
The House of correction is for people sentenced to a term of incarceration of less than 2.5 years. A sentence of more than 2.5 years must be served in a state prison such as Massachusetts Correctional Institution (MCI) Walpole or MCI Concord. An inmate classified as medium-security may be transferred to the Dukes County House of Correction from another facility only with the agreement of the sheriff, or a specific order from a judge.

Located in a small building near the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, the communications center dispatches or facilitates radio communications for public safety agencies on the Island. That includes local and state police, fire departments, ambulances, emergency medical technicians, environmental police, animal control, harbormasters, U.S. Coast Guard Station Menemsha, local and state highway departments, water departments, lifeguards, and The Trustees of Reservations. It is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.