ICE detainees allegedly damaged facility over Covid testing dispute

May 2, 2020

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson claims he was hit by a chair during an altercation at the jail’s Immigrations and Customs Enforcement facility on the evening of May 1, which resulted in three ICE detainees being taken to the hospital and $25,000 worth of damage.

At a May 2 press conference, Hodgson said he received a phone call from the Faunce Corner Road facility around 5 p.m. stating that 10 of the detainees refused to go to the jail’s medical unit after they were experiencing symptoms of Covid-19.

Two immigrations attorneys reported that according to their clients, the corrections officers caused at least some of the damage by breaking windows in the facility.

According to attorney Ben Haldeman, who was outside the detention center with another attorney during the incident, officers allegedly used pepper spray on the detainees.

“We’re extremely concerned with what’s going on in there,” he said at the time.

According to Hodgson, some inmates refused to get tested because they thought the medical center was unsanitary or because they said they did not have the virus.

“These are the same people who have been calling their attorneys, advocate groups, saying that they need to be released because they’re going to get contaminated and it’s dangerous in here,” he said.

The sheriff added that after telling the inmate he had to get tested, the detainee allegedly faked an injury that made additional inmates rush violently toward him and other officers, barricading themselves inside the facility, ripping washing machines and pipes off the wall and breaking windows.

“They essentially made the unit uninhabitable,” the sheriff said. “I opened up this building in 2007 and never had a problem until last month.”

Three ICE detainees were transported to the hospital: one for symptoms of a panic attack, one for a pre-existing medical condition and another for a medical incident after being removed from the ICE wing. According to the sheriff, the three who were transported to the hospital were back at the facility.

U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy tweeted “All people held at this facility deserve to be treated with humanity and dignity” and that there should be an investigation into the altercation.

Hodgson, who is also the honorary chairman of President Trump’s Massachusetts re-election effort, called out Kennedy and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, saying they should “be ashamed of themselves” for seeking an investigation.

Commonwealth Magazine reported on April 24 that Federal Judge William Young of the US District Court in Massachusetts ordered the sheriff’s office to submit reports on the number of immigration detainees in its custody who have been tested.

Young had earlier this month ordered the release of over 40 ICE detainees from the Bristol County House of Correction on Faunce Corner Road after a federal lawsuit and protests in the facility.

Currently, 26 detainees remain at the facility and are now isolated in individual cells. Hodgson said that if any refuse testing, they would remain isolated in those cells for two weeks. 

Hodgson said staff involved in the incident would not be tested for Covid-19 unless they begin to show symptoms.