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About the Essex County Sheriff’s Department

The core mission of the Essex County Sheriff’s Department is to protect the residents in the region from criminal offenders.

We accomplish this mission by:

  • Housing inmates in a secure and fair manner.
  • Providing rehabilitation services to offenders while they are incarcerated.
  • Practicing correctional policies that comply with all local, state and federal laws.
  • Using innovative correctional approaches that are in accord with our core mission.
  • Informing and educating the public about the department through the media, tours of the facilities and public appearances by the sheriff, administrators, K-9 Unit, and uniformed personnel.
  • Providing a professional working environment for the staff, which takes into account the welfare, safety and opportunities for professional advancement of all employees.


The Essex County Sheriff’s Department operates incarceration facilities in Middleton, Lawrence and Salisbury. Additionally, the department operates Community Corrections Centers in Lawrence, Newburyport and Lynn and Civil Process Offices in Salem and Lawrence. At any time, there are approximately 1,500 male and female sentenced offenders, pre-trial detainees and probationers in the care and custody of the department. Yearly, the department processes more than 11,000 offenders. Our facilities are as follows:

Sheriff’s Department Headquarters

The Headquarters for the Department is located adjacent to our medium security facility in Middleton. The Headquarters is responsible for the day-to-day administrative tasks associated with running the department, its 550 employees and $45m budget. Along with the nine facilities, the department has over 35 departments associated with the care, custody and rehabilitation of the offenders.

Essex County Correctional Facility

Opened on Feb. 15, 1991, the 10-building, 20 acre Middleton complex is a state-of-the-art correctional facility that houses 1,200 offenders daily. Included in this population are sentenced and pre-trial county inmates.

All offenders remanded to the custody of the Sheriff are processed and classified at this facility.

Correctional Alternative Center


The Essex County Sheriff’s Department gained operational control of the Lawrence Correctional Alternative Center in April 1976. The facility sits on 13 acres bordered by the Merrimack River and Interstate 495. This pre-release facility houses 340 inmates and is the headquarters of the Sheriff’s community service and work release programs.

The Marston Street complex was initially opened by the City of Lawrence in 1869 as a reform school for recalcitrant boys. Today it is the largest pre-release facility of its kind on the East Coast of the US.

Women in Transition


The Essex County Sheriff’s Department’s Women in Transition Facility opened on January 8, 2001. Located in Salisbury, this pre-release facility serves 27 women with a concentration on substance abuse related issues. Prior to it’s opening, there was no such facility for women offenders in the county.

Community Correction Centers

Lawrence, Salisbury, Lynn

The Essex County Sheriff’s Department was one of the first law enforcement agencies in the state to embrace the concept of community corrections centers. The department, in collaboration with the state Office of Community Corrections, the Essex County probation offices, state Parole Board, and Essex County District Attorney’s Office, opened the first center in Lawrence in July 1998. It was followed in 2000 with the opening of a center in Newburyport. The third center opened in Lynn in March 2001. Combined the three centers see approximately 200 probationers’ daily.

Civil Process

Lawrence and Salem

In 1997 the Sheriff opened an official Civil Process Division open to public scrutiny and accountability. The division with offices on the first floor of Salem Probate Court and at 354 Merrimack St., Bldg. C in Lawrence works with lawyers throughout the region, doling out all forms of legal documentation.

The money generated from this endeavor is used to sustain the unit and pay for new equipment and capital improvements throughout the department. Prior to 1997, Civil Process operated as a private concern through myriad firms that had no accountability to the sheriff’s department or taxpayers of the Commonwealth.

Lawrence Civil Process Office
354 Merrimack St., Bldg. C
Ste. 332
Lawrence, MA  01841

Salem Civil Process Office
P.O. Box 2019
Salem, MA. 01970
978-750-1900 ext 3590


In the fourteen years that Sheriff Cousins has been at the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, he has introduced a number of initiatives that have enhanced the organizations efficiency.

From day one, the top administrative priority of Sheriff Cousins has been to deliver a superior standard of law enforcement services to the taxpayers while maintaining a fiscally conservative approach. Sheriff Cousins has done this by:

  • Eliminating part-time employees, which increased full-time staff and reduced overtime expenditures
  • Restructuring the Civil Process Division to establish accountability to the sheriff’s department.
  • Providing 40 hours of yearly in-service training to all employees resulting in better-trained personnel and a fair return to the taxpayers for their investment in the department.
  • Established an examination process for all promotions of uniformed staff resulting in better-qualified supervisors.
  • Requiring that all new employees have an associate’s or a military background to ensure the acquisition of talented and dedicated professionals.
  • Creating a line-item budget for the department, which assures monthly accountability and protects against overspending.
  • Extensively renovating unused space to provide new work areas for drug counselors and mental health clinicians resulting in more counseling sessions to be conducted for offenders.
  • Working collaboratively with state, local and federal law enforcement agencies.


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 services include:

Security Investigations

Members of the department work in collaboration with local police departments to apprehend fugitives from justice who have outstanding charges against them. This unit has made hundreds of arrests and apprehensions.

K-9 Division

This unit is made up of 16 K-9’s that not only provide security at our facilities, but also assist the local police departments in the arrest of fugitives, location of missing people, and narcotic detection. In 1999-2000, this unit responded to over 300 calls resulting in the recovery of 30,000 bags of heroin, over 900 pounds of marijuana, 10 kilograms of cocaine and thousands of dollars.

Anti-Graffiti Truck

Operated out of the Correctional Alternative Center as part of the departments community services program; a uniformed officer escorts appropriately classified inmates to remove graffiti from public or private buildings. In the past two years, this service has been used in nearly every community in Essex County.

Youth Academy

The Essex County Sheriff’s Department’s Youth Academy is designed for at-risk youth ages 12-16. The goal is to give the youngsters a positive atmosphere that will promote teamwork, build character and instill a sense of personal responsibility for their actions. Funded through a Title V grant from the Executive Office of Public Safety, the program has a both a summer and after school sessions.

Police Department Information Sharing Network

The Sheriff’s Department serves as the hub of a computer network that enables all 34 police departments in the county to exchange information in a high speed, web based system.

Community Service

This program has over 100 offenders attending to various municipal projects in the 34 cities and towns in the county. Under the supervision of department staff, these crews have painted city and town halls, picked up trash on the highways, cleaned up cemeteries, removed snow from fire hydrants and a number of other valuable services designed to give back to the communities we represent.


The Essex County Sheriff’s Department has not always been in Middleton. Beginning in 1813 there were two detention facilities in the region, one in Salem and one in Lawrence. The Salem jail opened in 1813 and housed 320 inmates and was managed by 80 correctional officers. The Lawrence facility opened in 1848. It accommodated 300 inmates and 40 officers. Both were closed with the opening of the ECCF in 1990.