Watchdog group says sheriff took campaign contributions from jail's healthcare provider
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson — who is currently up for re-election later this year — has accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the CEO of a healthcare provider used within the Dartmouth jail.
According to a report compiled by the reform group Common Cause and a coalition called Communities for Sheriff Accountability, Hodgson received $12,040 in donations from Correctional Psychiatric Services Inc. between 2010 and 2021 — the most of any Massachusetts sheriff in that period.
The Quincy-based company has worked with the sheriff’s office for more than 10 years and also contracts with sheriff’s offices in Dukes, Middlesex, and Norfolk counties.
The report looked at campaign donations to 48 sheriffs in eight states from 2010 to 2021. It says some $6 million, roughly 40% of all donations sheriffs received, “create potential conflicts of interest.”
Data was gathered from Freedom of Information Act requests made to sheriff’s departments across Massachusetts.
Hodgson is mentioned several times in the group’s investigation, with findings that his campaign received $324,870 from numerous jail contractors, including getting the majority of CPS CEO Jorge Veliz’s contributions.
“The data speaks for itself,” said Max Rose, one of the report’s authors. “[Hodgson]’s misusing taxpayer resources and people are paying the price.”
The Bristol County Sheriff’s office refuted the findings.
Spokesperson Jonathan Darling called the report “garbage” written by a political organization that is “all about ‘defunding sheriffs’ and other anti-law enforcement rhetoric.”
“It’s obviously not worth the paper it was printed on,” he said.
Darling said the sheriff took particular exception to those allegations of possible conflicts of interest.
“If this organization doesn’t like Massachusetts’ campaign finance laws, they should be lobbying the legislature to change them,” he said. “Until then, Sheriff Hodgson will continue to follow all the laws.”
Under state law, no company shall directly or indirectly give toward political campaigns. Individuals, however, are allowed to contribute no more than $1,000 to candidates. According to campaign finance data, much of CPS’ employee contributions came from Veliz over the years.
Rose said that the donations raise concerns of conflict of interest because CPS’ contract with the jail is very lucrative and the sheriff controls who receives those contracts.
In 2021 alone, the sheriff’s office paid CPS $202,452 for jail healthcare services, state data shows.
Care provided by CPS has been the subject of many inmate complaints in recent years.
In the Common Cause/Communities for Sheriff Accountability report, an anonymous inmate claimed they required hip surgery, but went months without any update. After filing grievances with the jail, they said staff provided them with a shoe lift and were told their surgery “was never approved in the first place.”
"You file an appeal, and they never respond," the inmate alleged in the report.
According to current 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.
“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 allegations of medical negligence, saying that the jail’s partnership with CPS is “nationally accredited by the National Commission on Corrections Health Care.” He added that jail protocol states that a nurse must immediately assist an inmate.
“The medical care here is top notch,” he said. “It’s a great partnership.”
Hodgson faces re-election for a fifth term this November.
A copy of the report compiled by Common Cause and Communities for Sheriff Accountability is attached to this story.