Frank G. Cousins Jr. has been the Sheriff of Essex County (MA) since September 1996. Initially appointed to the post by Governor William F. Weld, Sheriff Cousins was elected to his first six-year term in November 1998. He easily won a second term in November 2004. The victory allowed the sheriff to continue the institution of progressive reforms that have made the department a national model.
An example of this came in September 2003, when the Essex County Correctional Facility in Middleton was awarded full accreditation from the American Correctional Association. Only 110, out of 2,300, adult male correctional facilities in the United States have earned this coveted professional honor. Since that time, Middleton has been reaccredited twice, earning higher scores from the evaluators in 2006 and in 2009, when it scored a 100 percent in the mandatory list of standards and a 97.6 percent for the non-mandatory standards.
Sheriff Cousins’ tenure has been marked by myriad reforms. Under his leadership the department has opened three offices of community corrections, two civil process offices and the county’s first women’s pre-release facility, that has also been awarded full accreditation from the American Correctional Association. The women’s facility earned a 100 percent in the mandatory categories this year, and a 98.89 percent in the non-mandatory standards.
Sheriff Cousins has also restructured the finances of the department, instituting a line-item budgeting process, which has saved taxpayers thousands of dollars.
The Essex County Sheriff’s Department consists of nine facilities, 585 employees, and has an annual operating budget in excess of $45 million. Sheriff Cousins is responsible for the daily care and custody of more than 2,000 criminal offenders.
Sheriff Cousins’ commitment to providing innovative educational and behavioral programs for the offenders he is responsible for is well known. In 2008 he created a special 80-bed unit called TRAC – Treatment and Recovery of Addiction in Corrections – that focuses on offenders who have committed crimes as a result of their addiction to drugs and alcohol. The unit, housed at the Middleton House of Correction, demands accountability from the offenders enrolled in the therapeutic-based counseling program. He has also demanded the offenders’ repay their debts to society by participating in supervised community service work projects. These endeavors can, but are not limited to, rehabilitating senior citizen centers, painting public school buildings when classes are not in session, and removing graffiti from the sides of public buildings.
Sheriff Cousins has also been at the forefront of the movement in corrections to supervise offenders upon their release from jail, if the offenders require additional counseling and/or monitoring services, so they will not digress and abuse drugs and alcohol and repeat the same offenses that led to their incarceration. He has established a pre-release facility for offenders at the department’s Correctional Alternative Center in Lawrence, and sober houses for those male offenders who need additional assistance in Lawrence, Lynn, and Saugus. He has also crafted numerous drug and alcohol diversion programs for female offenders at the Women-In-Transition Center in Salisbury.
Sheriff Cousins’ achievements have been recognized at the state and national level. Governor Mitt Romney and Lt. Governor Kerry Healey in November 2002 selected the sheriff to serve on their transition team for public safety, where he played a vital role in the administration’s review of policing and homeland security issues. In 2003 Sheriff Cousins was tabbed to serve on Governor Romney’s “Crime Commission,” where he co-chaired the “Offender Re-Entry” working group. In 2006, Governor Deval Patrick asked Sheriff Cousins to serve on his transition team. He was later asked to serve on Governor Patrick’s “Anti-Crime Council” and Attorney General Martha Coakley’s “Urban Violence” subcommittee.
In 2006, he was elected to serve a two-year term as the president of the Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association. In that capacity, it was Sheriff Cousins’ responsibility to advocate for funds from the Legislature on behalf of the other state sheriffs that are used to pay for rehabilitation programs that reduce recidivism and curb drug and alcohol addictions within the county correctional system’s inmate population.
Sheriff Cousins’ efforts to make the region safe do not end where the walls of the facilities he manages begin. During his tenure he has worked to forge positive relationships with local, state and federal crime-fighting agencies. An example is his implementation of web-based information network that links all 34 police departments in the county to the House of Correction in Middleton. A second example is when he spearheaded the drive to share facial recognition technology with area police. Today, he is working with area police and fire chiefs to establish a regional E-911 call center in Essex County.
As he looks toward the future, Sheriff Cousins intends to open a regional police lock-up, introduce new rehabilitative programs that reduce offender recidivism, and gain American Correctional Association accreditation for the Lawrence Correctional Alternative Center.
Prior to becoming sheriff, Frank served two terms as the state representative (1992-1996) from the 1st Essex District and was a Newburyport City Councilor (1989-1993). While serving in the Legislature, the sheriff was a member of the Insurance and Energy Committees and was one of only 35 young leaders from across the nation selected for a prestigious Flemming Fellowship. In 1996 he served as chairman of the Massachusetts Black Legislative Caucus and fought to expand opportunities for minorities in state government.
Sheriff Cousins is a graduate of Springfield College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in human services and a master’s degree in criminal justice. He has also attended seminars at the National Sheriff’s Institute in Denver, Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s LEEDS Training Academy, which is for senior law enforcement executives.
He resides in Newburyport and is the proud father of a son, Gardner William.