Opinion: Sheriff says jail more than meets health standards

Dec 2, 2021

To the Editor:

In light of the recent Dartmouth Week article alleging medical negligence at the Bristol County House of Corrections, I thought it was a good time to remind the public that not only is the Dartmouth correctional complex nationally accredited by the American Corrections Association (with back-to-back perfect 100% scores on the grueling audits), but our health care operation is nationally accredited by the National Commission on Corrections Health Care.

Those are national honors we earned by passing inspections and audits performed by experts in their respective fields. For example, the ACA inspections are carried out by security and corrections administration professionals, while the NCCHC audits are done by health care professionals with corrections backgrounds and experience.

My point is if you read the constant letters to the editor written by the same political activist talking about how bad the Sheriff's Office is, or read articles based on completely false allegations from inmates who are not exactly thrilled about being behind bars (and likely hoping for a Covid release from jail), you'd get a false sense of what goes at our facilities day in and day out.

So the next time you see the same letter to the editor written by the same political activist group, or read false allegations from cranky inmates in the newspaper, just remember that the Bristol County Sheriff's Office holds national honors from corrections and health care professionals, and the hundreds of dedicated staff members here are working - literally - around the clock to make Bristol County a safer place to live, work and raise families.

We have hundreds of corrections officers and security professionals who risk their lives every single day to keep the public safe. Every day on every shift, they manage inmates in gangs and inmates with violent criminal histories. They are held to the highest industry standards of care, custody and control, and they do an amazing job.

Our halls are filled with doctors, nurses, clinicians and other mental and physical health care professionals. Social service professionals and case workers are meeting with inmates. Our reentry teams are preparing inmates for release, connecting them with community resources to help transition back home. Our teachers in the education department are helping inmates get a high school diploma, college credits, or offering vocational and other career training classes that can lead to employment upon release. Grant professionals are writing away to secure funding for innovative new programs. Substance abuse counselors are holding meetings and connecting with inmates on a deep level. Our public programs staff is out in the community offering public safety programs for senior citizens and school students. The BCSO K9 unit is working collaboratively with police departments from New Bedford, Fall River, Fairhaven and Somerset, as well as other Sheriff's Offices and the Mass. State Police. Our dogs can detect drugs, guns, weapons, explosives, missing persons and suspects, and are available to every community in Bristol County 24 hours a day.

We have a training department, the best facilities team in the state, human resources, payroll, legal, communications/dispatch, special investigators, internal affairs, youth outreach, finance, information technology, purchasing, policy, fire safety, fleet management and more, and we are the only Sheriff's Office in the state with a management accountability program that monitors and tracks hundreds of operational indicators every day on every shift to ensure efficiencies.

It's a lot of moving parts all working toward the same goal: Keep the citizens of Bristol County as safe as possible. And this award-winning staff, this team of corrections professionals whose work has been recognized and honored from industry experts, amazes me and makes me proud every single day.

Thomas M. Hodgson,
Sheriff of Bristol County