Report claims trans inmate raped at Dartmouth jail, sheriff's office refutes allegations

Jul 29, 2022

A former inmate at the Bristol County House of Correction claims she was sexually assaulted during her stay at the Dartmouth jail, according to a report from Prisoners' Legal Services of Massachusetts published this month.

The sheriff’s office, meanwhile, denies such an incident even occurred.

According to the report, an unnamed transgender inmate called “H” was held on the male side of the Dartmouth jail despite being a woman. 

While in the male part of the jail, the former inmate alleges she was sexually assaulted by her male cellmate.

She also reported that, during an investigation, a correctional officer asked her about her genitals and how they work when she has sex. She also claimed that male officers “routinely strip-searched her.”

It is unclear when such incidents occurred at the jail, as the inmate did not share any dates while being interviewed for the report.

Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Jonathan Darling said no such claims were ever reported to jail staff.

“No transgender inmate has ever said anything about being raped,” he said.

These are internal investigations and not reported to law enforcement,  Prisoners’ Legal Services Policy Director Jesse White said, because victims are concerned they won’t be believed and that correctional officers rarely face consequences for this type of action. 

“In many cases women are not believed when they report sexual violence, and then face retaliation for doing so,” White said. 

Darling said another reason why this is unlikely is that the jail’s policy is to keep trans inmates alone in separate cells. Only in “extremely rare cases,” he said, would a trans inmate be placed with a cellmate.

“Even if they did have a cellmate, it would be the same gender they identify as,” Darling noted.

He also said that Prisoners’ Legal Services “made no effort to verify any of this with us.”

“I am not sure how we would reliably verify a woman’s reported sexual assault with Bristol County given the lack of records access, chilling effects on reporting, and lack of independent oversight and independent investigation of incidents,” White responded. 

State officials are currently looking into the allegations made in the report.