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Essex County Sheriff's Department (Massachusetts)

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Robert E. Cahill

About the Essex County Sheriff’s Department

The Essex County Sheriff’s Department (Massachusetts) have been serving the public safety needs of the residents of the 34 cities and towns that comprise the region around Salem for over 300 years.  The tradition began under the colonial-era leadership of George Corwin, William Gedney, Thomas Wainwright, Daniel Denison and Michael Farley, and continues today under the watchful eyes of Robert E. Cahill, Thomas C. Goff and Sheriff Frank G. Cousins, Jr.

Initially, offenders from the county were housed at two separate facilities in Salem and Lawrence.  The first Salem Jail was constructed to serve citizens north of Boston and was operational in 1638.  Many historians say it was the first detention facility of its kind built in the country.  Located at the corner of Federal and St. Peter streets, the edifice was made of wood, with additions built over the years to accommodate an expanding client base.  Some scholars believe victims of Salem’s infamous Witch Trials were incarcerated at the jail.


Today, the 10-building Middleton complex sits on 20 acres that overlooks the communities of Danvers and Middleton.  It is adjacent to Essex Agricultural Institute and a parcel of land owned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


The facility opened with five hundred offenders.  Today, it houses about 990.  The central inmate housing area is enclosed by a pair of chain-link fences and is topped with coiled wire, motion detectors, and a specially-constructed lower segment that makes climbing over the fences next to impossible.  The administration building, warehouse, and garage are located outside the fence.


The Essex County Sheriff’s Department houses sentenced county inmates, pre-trial county inmates and sentenced state inmates.  It also houses a handful of federal inmates. The average sentence for a county inmate is nine months. The average sentence for a state inmate is six years.


The department processes over 8,000 new inmates per year.  The average age of an inmate is 33.  Thirty percent of the inmates do not have high school diplomas.

The Essex County Sheriff's Department provides a myriad of services to outside law enforcement agencies and community outreach service providers. The goal of these services is to enhance the safety and security of the residents of Essex County.


The Essex County Sheriff’s Department performs these law enforcement related functions: Anti-Graffiti Truck; Civil Process; Information Sharing Network; K-9 Division; TRIAD; and Youth Academy.




Selected book from an Essex County Sheriff's Department law enforcement official.

The Wayward Sheriffs of Witch County: True Misadventures of Operating America's Oldest Jail and Courthouse
Robert Ellis Cahill  More Info

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