Bristol County has a new sheriff, and Paul Heroux said among his first priorities as the county's chief jailer is to tear down the 135-year old Ash Street facility in New Bedford and transfer inmates to the main campus in Dartmouth.

Heroux was chosen by voters in November to replace controversial and longtime Bristol Sheriff Thomas Hodgson. Heroux's first day on the job was Jan. 4.

New Bedford’s Ash Street Jail, constructed in 1888, currently houses 100 inmates in what prison rights advocates describe as "tiny cells." Heroux said he wants to shutter the facility and move detainees to the 16,000-square-foot Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Dartmouth, which was built in 2006 and closed 18 months ago.

Jonathan Darling, spokesman for the Bristol County sheriff’s department said, the proposed transfer is still in the planning stages.

"A million things have to happen for this to go forward," Darling said. "We need funding from Beacon Hill. We need architects, engineers — a whole list of things that have to get done. We’re years away from even breaking ground on this if everything goes well. We're talking three years until we can put a shovel in the ground."

The entire process would take an estimated five years and cost $10 million, according to the sheriff’s department.

Still, some inmate advocates are hailing the proposal.

Elizabeth Matos, executive director of Prisoners' Legal Services, said closing the jail is welcome news. The organization sued the Bristol County sheriff's department in the past to correct what she said were inadequate sanitation services, describing that "people were having to defecate, urinate in buckets."

"It has been ill-equipped to house people for quite some time. If anyone who has actually visited the facility, I think it's pretty striking how different it is from other jails. And it's also been compared to Alcatraz," said Matos.

"It's just that old," she continued. "So closing it, I think, would be a good thing."