Tenth staffer at Dartmouth jail tests positive as judge orders testing reports

Apr 30, 2020

Three more Bristol County Sheriff’s Office staff members tested positive for Covid-19 last week, bringing the total count to 10 as a federal judge ordered the office to report the number and results of tests for immigration detainees on April 24.

The Sheriff’s Office confirmed the new cases in a press release on April 30.

Two corrections officers and a lieutenant were informed of their positive test results on April 24 and April 26 after falling ill, according to the statement. They worked their last shifts at the facility on April 19, 20, and 21.

Currently, six Bristol County Sheriff's Office staff members are away from the facility recovering from Covid-19, the press release noted. Four others have fully recovered and returned to duty.

"Each of our team members who has tested positive for Covid-19 has either recovered or is expected to be fine," Sheriff Thomas Hodgson said. "We have hundreds of essential works here every day on every shift as our correctional facilities keep running, and our team is doing an amazing job in these extremely challenging times."

Fifteen prisoners, some symptomatic and some in close proximity to symptomatic individuals, have all tested negative for the virus, according to the release. No one incarcerated in a Bristol County corrections facility has tested positive for the virus.

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 Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees from the Bristol County House of Correction on Faunce Corner Road after a federal lawsuit and protests in the facility.

Detainees were protesting and the lawsuit was filed by advocacy group Lawyers for Civil Rights over fears of a coronavirus outbreak amid allegedly unsafe conditions in which inmates sleep just three feet apart instead of the recommended six feet, and where cells can hold up to six or eight at a time.

According to Commonwealth Magazine, Young also ordered that each detainee considered for release be given a list of conditions on which their release is contingent.

Hodgson had previously disclosed the criminal backgrounds and history of charges for those released from the facility, and on April 30 announced his intent to expand the “alert system.”

"America's Sheriffs took an oath to protect their communities from harm, and these judges are undermining that oath and putting our families and friends at risk by releasing prisoners across the country," Hodgson said. "I'm urging every Sheriff in our great country to alert the public by sharing the full criminal histories and not just the pending charges of those they're being judicially forced to release. The public has a right to know who is being released back into their neighborhoods, and the more information the public has, the more safe they can be." 

“Not everyone in here is a gun toting criminal,” noted an inmate at the facility, who spoke anonymously to Dartmouth Week after the first detainees were released. “A lot of these people are everyday people.”

“People are afraid,” he added. “A lot of people just want to get home to their loved ones.”

Five prisoners in Massachusetts have died from the virus.