Fifth Covid-19 case at Dartmouth jail

Apr 21, 2020

This article has been updated to include comments from an inmate at the Bristol County House of Correction.

A fifth Bristol County Sheriff's Office staff member has now tested positive for Covid-19, the office announced in a press release on April 21.

According to the press release, the staffer — a corrections officer at the Faunce Corner Road facility — was last at the jail on April 13, when he worked alone in a control room, before receiving a positive test result on April 17.

"He's feeling fine," Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson said Tuesday. "It's encouraging he's feeling well and we hope he makes a full, quick recovery."

The jail has started releasing immigration detainees after a federal judge ordered more than 40 people released due to concerns over the risk of an outbreak. Inmates at the facility sleep three feet apart instead of the recommended six feet.

Hodgson has tweeted his opposition to the action and released the criminal backgrounds of detainees slated for release.

“Not everyone in here is a gun toting criminal,” noted an inmate at the facility, who spoke anonymously. “A lot of these people are everyday people.”

“People are afraid,” he added. “A lot of people just want to get home to their loved ones.”

Five prisoners in Massachusetts have died from the virus.

The inmate outlined conditions that he felt put the prisoners at risk of an outbreak, including a lack of hand sanitizer available for purchase at the commissary. He also alleged that the masks provided to inmates are hard to breathe through, so many don’t wear them, and that many inmates take meals in common areas together.

“All inmates and staff are mandated to wear” PPE, said Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jonathan Darling, who confirmed that up to six or eight inmates can share one cell at the facility.

“We certainly understand how everybody could be on edge right now,” he added. “The whole world is on edge right now.”

“I want safety,” said the inmate simply. “No one should have to live like this.”

A nurse who tested positive last month has recovered and returned to duty, as has a K9 officer who tested positive a few weeks ago, according to the press release. A corrections officer who tested positive earlier this month is returning to duty on April 21, and a mental health professional that also tested positive is feeling well and expected to return soon.

No one incarcerated in a Bristol County corrections facility has tested positive for the virus, according to the press release. Seven inmates with symptoms have all tested negative.

New policies at the facility include disinfecting every day, screening all staff and new arrivals, and stopping all in-person visitation other than attorneys and clergy. 

"The precautions we've taken are working, and the staff has been amazing," Hodgson said.