A Massachusetts sheriff is offering up his inmates’ labor to build a wall on the Mexican border for President-elect Donald Trump.
“I can think of no other project that would have such a positive impact on our inmates and our country than building this wall,” Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson said at his swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, according to Reuters. “Aside from learning and perfecting construction skills, the symbolism of these inmates building a wall to prevent crime in communities around the country, and to preserve jobs and work opportunities for them and other Americans upon release, can be very powerful.”
Trump’s proposal of a unified wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, the cost of which he argues would be covered by Mexico, became the central promise of his presidential campaign.
Hodgson used his inaugural address, which marked the beginning of his fourth six-year term as sheriff, to announce what he called “Project N.I.C.E.”: National Inmates’ Community Endeavors, NBC reported.
“We have inmates that are already great masons–it’s not just about masonry it’s as simple as moving materials to the wall, maybe digging in certain areas,” Hodgson said, according to NBC.
“We have to create a border down there that prevents jobs from being taken away from Americans that prevents criminals from coming in, including terrorists,” Hodgson continued. “We’ve seen too many people killed in our communities because of criminal, illegal aliens coming here.”
Jonathan Darling, a spokesman for the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, told TPM on Thursday that he had reached out to Trump’s transition team about the offer but had not received a response. He also clarified that the N.I.C.E. program Hodgson referred to was voluntary and that inmates were not paid for what he called community service work that may go towards shortening their sentences.
While a spokesman for Gov. Charlie Baker (R), who swore in Hodgson, told NBC that his administration had not been briefed on the proposal, the spokesman said the governor would prefer inmates work closer to home.
Representatives of Trump’s transition team did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.
This post has been updated.