Several probes launched into violence at Bristol County Jail

Feds, Healey, and state Senate look into incident

SEVERAL OFFICIALS and agencies are launching inquiries into the violence that erupted at the Bristol County Jail on Friday night, sending three immigration detainees to the hospital and causing $25,000 worth of damage. 

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General, Attorney General Maura Healey, and the state Senate Post Audit and Oversight Committee said they would look into what happened at the jail.  

Sheriff Thomas Hodgson sought to have 10 detainees tested for COVID-19 Friday night when an altercation occurred; Hodgson said the detainees resisted being tested and then attacked him and his officers, while advocates for the detainees have suggested Hodgson was at fault and attacked one of the detainees.  

Twenty-six detainees were placed in single cells following the incident. Ira Alkalay, an attorney who represents several detainees, said he hasn’t been allowed to see them but received a call from one who said that inmates who were involved in the altercation are in solitary confinement in “freezing” conditions without shoes, socks, or sheets.  

Hodgson said he “looks forward to the results of the final report” by the inspector general, calling the probe an “independent investigation.”  

The Department of Homeland Security is the umbrella agency that runs US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which in turn has a longstanding contract with Hodgson’s office to house the detainees in North Dartmouth. ICE declined to comment on ongoing investigations. 

One detainee tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday. Ten staffers and vendors have also tested positive for coronavirus.  

Healey issued a statement Tuesday saying her office is investigating to get more details on what happened. Her office has asked for all surveillance video and documents related to the incident. 

“Reports about the incident at Bristol County jail are very concerning,” Healey said in a statement. “My office has opened an investigation to get more details about what happened and to ensure public health and safety at this facility.”

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Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, 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 bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, 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.

The Senate Post Audit and Oversight Committee, headed by Sen. John Keenan of Quincy, also said it was investigating what happened at the jail. Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz of Jamaica Plain described being told she could not enter the facility Saturday morning, despite a state statute granting lawmakers unannounced access to correctional facilities. Keenan said his committee will also look into that “denial of access.”  

A federal judge on Monday rejected demands by Lawyers for Civil Rights to broaden a scheduled deposition of Hodgson to include the circumstances surrounding violence that broke out at the facility on Friday night. The suit’s goal was to reduce crowding at the facility during the COVID-19 pandemic. The case, originally filed in March by the organization, has resulted in the release of 50 detainees, mostly to house arrest.