Covid outbreak hits Dartmouth jail, inmates allege unsafe conditions
After months of low case counts for Covid-19, nearly 60 inmates and personnel at the Bristol County House of Correction are currently under quarantine for the virus as inmates allege poor health and safety conditions at the Dartmouth jail.
According to Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Jonathan Darling, the jail currently has 57 confirmed cases of Covid-19 — 46 inmates and 11 staff members.
Darling said that many of those who tested positive are finishing up medical isolation in segregation units and will return to the jail’s general population by the end of the week.
“They all seem to be doing well,” he said. “Nobody has severe symptoms.”
While the numbers are expected to lower at the jail, some inmates worry over alleged conditions they say led to this recent outbreak.
Ben Evans of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the state’s public defender agency, said that many of his clients currently housed within the Faunce Corner Road jail allege their housing units lacked hand sanitizer and masks.
Darling rejected the claims, saying that sanitizer is available in every housing unit and inmates are provided with a set of two masks and can request additional personal protective equipment “at any time.”
Another concern inmates have, Evans said, is with how quarantines are handled.
According to the attorney, inmates are “constantly being rotated.” Many, he said, might see three to five different cellmates during their two-week stay in the unit.
“That’s not really a quarantine,” Evans said.
Darling said that while inmates do often get rotated through the quarantine unit, they are monitored once back with the jail’s general population.
Inmates will only be tested if they develop symptoms for Covid-19 or request to get tested, Darling said.
Evans’ clients also say that requests for vaccinations go unanswered.
According to Darling, inmates are offered vaccines upon arrival to the Dartmouth facility and are “continuously offered” them during their stay.
According to state data as of Oct. 27, the most recent report, 268 inmates and 204 staff members had received at least a first vaccination dose at the jail. Meanwhile, 347 staff have refused to get their shots since vaccinations became available on Jan. 21.
The Dartmouth facility houses 618 inmates, although Darling notes that most shift in and out during a given week. Most of those currently vaccinated are staying long-term.
The Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said the jail recently held information sessions with infectious disease experts and that more than 50 of the inmates who attended have signed up for their vaccines.
“We’re just working through that list right now,” Darling noted. “There probably have been those who have made a request who haven’t gotten it, but we expect to be done this week.”