DPH finds health violations at Dartmouth jail

Aug 21, 2020

An infection control manual at the Bristol County House of Correction had no coronavirus-specific information — even as inmates were crowded in bunk beds, according to a Department of Public Health investigation.

The Jun. 25 inspection was prompted by official complaints of unsanitary conditions filed this spring, and the results of the investigation were released this summer.

DPH inspectors found overcrowding at the jail — with seven out of eight units in the facility found to have “inadequate floor space,” according to a letter the agency sent to jail superintendent Steven Souza.

Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Jonathan Darling said that the jail was designed and constructed in 1990 in compliance with the standards of that time and that the issues highlighted by the DPH are “more of a clerical thing than actual overcrowding.”

He said over the years, the state has required the facility to run double bunked cells and that the jail is granted occupancy waivers from the Department of Corrections and DPH.

“When you’ve built for single cells 30 years ago and the state says you have two per cell, you’re going to have some crowding,” Darling said. 

The report also found clogged and out-of-order sinks and toilets, soap scum and mold in the showers,broken air vents, dangling light fixtures and missing tiles. 

Darling alleged the sinks and toilets are subject to being intentionally clogged by inmates and that any clogs are addressed when staff are made aware. 

As for the soap scum, Darling said the inspection occurred shortly after they were used and before the daily cleaning.

“If [the inspectors] came at 4 or 5 o’clock, things would have been clean,” he said. 

Other violations listed by the DPH included mold found in the kitchen, food not being appropriately covered and a small refrigerator not holding food at the proper temperature.

According to Darling, any equipment the DPH found not working was repaired and most of the violations were corrected in front of the inspectors. 

“All the violations found in our kitchen are the same you’d find in any industrial food service operation,” he said.

During the pandemic, 48 inmates and 43 staff members have tested positive for Covid-19. Since July 10, no staff members, county inmates or ICE detainees have tested positive for the coronavirus, and that everyone who has tested positive has made a full recovery.

Darling also said before the pandemic, the facility's infection control manual was last updated in 2017, saying that no communicable diseases had emerged. 

He noted the manual outlined steps to take on the flu, H1N1, and HIV/AIDS, but said the most recent CDC and DPH guidelines for Covid-19 have been added.

“We always want to get better,” Darling said. “Overall, these violations were minor, but we will keep our eyes on these things.”