Judge orders release of three Dartmouth ICE detainees

Apr 4, 2020

A federal judge ordered the release of three detainees in an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement facility in Dartmouth on Friday due to concerns of a coronavirus outbreak at the detention center.

The order for release from US District Court Judge William Young came after ICE voluntarily released six others from the Faunce Corner Road jail.

The ICE facility has come under scrutiny in the past week due to the pandemic, with detainees on strike against allegedly unsafe conditions, a federal lawsuit requesting their release, and with one nurse testing positive for Covid-19.

Commonwealth Magazine reported that none of those released have prior convictions or charges against them, and that they will be placed under house arrest and quarantined for 14 days following their release.

The judge is also reportedly looking at a list of 50 other detainees who may be eligible for release in the next week out of concerns about a lack of social distancing at the facility. 

Detainees have been protesting conditions in which beds are just three feet apart, making it impossible to maintain the recommended six feet of distance from another person. The protest included a strike started on March 30 and a federal lawsuit filed on March 27.

The nurse tested positive for coronavirus on April 1 after she went home with a low-grade fever on March 25. She had worked an overnight shift at the ICE facility and the women’s center.

The call to release those in the ICE detention center comes as jails across the country, including in New York and Chicago, are releasing inmates to slow the spread of the virus through the prison system.

Sheriff Thomas Hodgson wrote in a tweet on Friday afternoon that he believes “everyone — inmates, ICE detainees, people in the community — are more safe during this national epidemic when those ordered behind bars by a judge remain incarcerated.”

He had previously noted that “inmates have more immediate access to medical care than the average citizen in the community.”

“Sheriff Hodgson has repeatedly argued that removal of even people who simply can’t afford to pay bail is somehow a danger to public safety,” commented Rafael Pizarro of Bristol County for Correctional Justice in a press release. “This ruling highlights that many who are incarcerated are neither violent felons, nor a danger to the public.”

“We welcome this step forward and consider it an important precedent for the future,” he added.