Healey pushes to block immigrant detention at jail

Hodgson cites AG’s ‘pro-illegal immigrant agenda’

ATTORNEY GENERAL Maura Healey, in the wake of a report by her office on a May 1 confrontation at the Bristol County Jail, is seeking to prohibit Sheriff Thomas Hodgson from using his facility to detain immigrants for the federal government.

Healey, whose office found the civil rights of detainees were violated during the May 1 incident, urged the Department of Homeland Security to terminate both of its immigrant detention agreements with the sheriff’s office and recommended that the Massachusetts Legislature pass laws terminating Hodgson’s authority to enter into such agreements in the future.

Hodgson, a Republican who headed President Trump’s campaign in Massachusetts, issued a statement saying the Healey report was “littered with baseless allegations and assumptions, and was clearly written and released to advance her long-documented anti-ICE, pro-illegal immigrant political agenda.”

“The corrections teams at the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office risked their lives to quell a violent altercation with criminal illegal aliens on May 1 and did so with the upmost professionalism. We stand by the response to the incident, and look forward to the results of the truly independent investigation currently being worked on by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General.”

Hodgson promised to meet in-person with reporters to answer questions on Wednesday.

In her own statement, Healey said her investigation revealed that Hodgson’s office violated the rights of detainees by using excessive force and by seriously risking their health and safety. “This callous disregard for the well-being of immigration detainees is unacceptable and must be addressed through the significant reforms we outline in our report. My office expects the sheriff’s office to implement our recommendations to ensure that the serious systemic issues we’ve identified at the facility are remedied.”

Healey recommended that Hodgson review and revise his policies to make sure they are in compliance with laws dealing with the use of force. The report found extreme use of force without attempts to de-escalate, and force used upon detainees who were already restrained or being compliant with commands from officers.  The report also found that many use of force incidents were not properly reported.

Healey said Hodgson should also address how translation and interpretation services will be provided in the context of a large-scale disturbance, since this was a major factor in immigrant detainees being unable to understand Hodgson’s orders during the incident.

Healey also said the Massachusetts Department of Public Health should assess medical care and access at the facilities. Healey said her investigation found that medical incident reports following the May 1 incident were “grossly deficient,” and missing information about injuries sustained by detainees during the melee.

Several incident reports mischaracterized interactions, Healey said, with video surveillance showing that some detainees were compliant but incident reports alleging detainees were combative or assaulted guards.

Healey’s office also sent a letter to Suffolk Superior Court on Tuesday, asking that the video surveillance and other evidence be released to the public. The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, which currently has a public records lawsuit pending against Hodgson over the video footage.

Several legislators have reacted to the results of the investigation.

“The questions all-too-often raised about Sheriff Hodgson’s judgement and temperament are clearly confirmed,” said Bourne Congressman Bill Keating, who represents the North Dartmouth area. ‘”By physically engaging a non-criminal immigrant detainee personally and launching a “paramilitary-style” force inside the prison to collectively punish immigration detainees under his care, Sheriff Hodgson violated their civil rights,”‘ he said.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey released a joint statement agreeing with Healey over the recommendation that the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office not be engaged in immigrant detention. They’re also calling on the office of the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General and the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to release their federal investigations.