Inmate alleges medical negligence at Dartmouth jail
More than a year after the state’s Department of Public Health cited a variety of health violations at the Bristol County House of Correction, an inmate housed at the jail says staff members continue to ignore Covid-19 safety guidelines as units within the jail begin another quarantine.
According to inmate Lewis Floyd, staff joked about inmates’ illnesses, refused to inform them of their Covid test results and removed them back into the general population even when their health was questionable.
Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Jonathan Darling said there is currently no facility-wide quarantine, but some units might be locked down to limit movement of inmates from other parts of the jail to avoid spreading the virus.
As of Nov. 30, the jail had 24 active cases of Covid-19, 18 inmates and six staff members. The jail houses 613 people who have been sentenced or are awaiting trial.
Floyd said the latest lockdown began on Nov. 26 after an inmate tested positive for Covid-19 after transferring to units with more than 30 other inmates just three days prior.
“None of them were tested for coronavirus before entering the unit,” Floyd said.
Floyd reported to his attorney that throughout early November jail staff routinely had “deliberate indifference to our health” during the initial lockdown, in which movement from a housing unit is limited to only jail staff and new transfers.
He said staff often ignored or joked when inmates would pass out due to illness — some of whom turned out to be Covid-positive.
“They’re very [relaxed] with CDC guidelines,” Floyd said. “They don’t care.”
Floyd cited an alleged incident on Nov. 7 in which a nurse made jokes regarding “how milk made [an inmate] pass out in front of medcart during med pass” — the scheduled time in which nurses dispense medications to inmates — when Floyd said it was due to Covid.
“This is the same nurse whom refused medical attention initially to [the fallen inmate]; knew that another inmate fell and hit his head on Saturday Nov. 6, 2021 and did not give him medical attention,” Floyd wrote in his report.
Darling rejected the claim, saying jail protocol is that a nurse must immediately assist an inmate.
“They’re healthcare professionals, that’s what they do,” he said.
At 8:27 that morning, Floyd observed an inmate alert a nurse that he was feeling sick, only to be sent back to his bunk after getting tested for Covid-19. According to Floyd, bunks are roughly 3 feet apart in the unit.
“They allow them to stay in the unit and possibly infect everybody,” he said.
According to Darling, this only applies to units that are already under quarantine. If the test is positive, the inmate will be taken to isolation, while the remaining inmates are monitored for symptoms.
Roughly 45 minutes after the sick inmate was tested, Floyd said the man was found laying on the floor with a nurse refusing to provide medical attention.
At 9:35 a.m., the inmate was removed from the unit by wheelchair. Two minutes later, Floyd said another inmate collapsed and was initially refused medical attention by the same nurse.
On that day alone, Floyd said 14 inmates were removed from his unit to be placed in the jail’s segregated medical isolation units. Floyd said that inmates remaining in the unit were not tested for Covid.
According to Darling, inmates will only be tested if they develop symptoms or request to get tested.
For those who do get tested, Floyd said results are often withheld from inmates until they are taken out of their unit for quarantine.
“They won’t give you a paper copy of your results,” he said. “[Nurses] told us we were not allowed to know.”
Darling said that inmates are verbally told the results of their Covid tests. Paper copies are available upon request, he said, but inmates cannot keep it in their cells due to privacy-protected information on it that can be seen by other inmates in the unit.
Floyd said the unit also was not cleansed or sanitized following the transfer of the Covid-positive inmates.
Darling said 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.”
According to Floyd, while there is sanitizer available within the unit, correctional officers “refuse to allow the inmates access to these.”
Darling said that if an inmate wants the sanitizer behind a CO’s desk, they can request to use it any time and that “any inmate saying they don’t have access to sanitizer is lying.”
Along with alleging unsafe conditions, Floyd said administrators also violated the Code of Massachusetts Regulations, including the state’s requirement to provide health protection for inmates and staff.
He wrote that Bristol County House of Correction staff "refuse to adhere" to the regulations and the CDC guidelines regarding the safety and health of detainees, "specifically the refusal to utilize the resources to assure that the living areas of the detainees, especially those unsentenced, are kept clean.”
In another instance on Nov. 10, Floyd said sentenced convicts from Unit 2 West took over the jail’s kitchen duties after a nearby section was placed on Covid lockdown. According to the inmate, none of the kitchen workers was tested for Covid-19 before handling food.
Under state regulations, every food service worker at a correctional facility “shall have a medical examination prior to returning to work after a substantial illness.”
Darling refuted the allegations, saying that “we are in full compliance with that CMR and all other rules, regulations and guidelines.”
“The CMR says nothing about Covid testing,” he added.
According to a DPH spokesperson, the department is currently looking into the alleged violations.
A copy of Floyd’s report of jail conditions is attached to this story. Names have been redacted for privacy purposes.