Inmates protest at Bristol County House of Corrections

Jul 26, 2018

Nearly 250 inmates at the Bristol County House of Corrections participated in a protest by refusing to eat prepared meals beginning on Tuesday, July 24, and ending when all inmates ate lunch on Thursday, July 26.

According to Bristol County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Jonathan Darling, the protest began when 71 inmates refused dinner on July 24. On July 25, an additional 35 inmates refused breakfast, and 136 more inmates refused lunch. On Thursday, only one of the inmates previously participating in the protest ate breakfast, but all the inmates ate the prepared lunch.

Darling said the protest was inspired by a similar protest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees last week.

“They saw the attention that the ICE prisoners got from the media, and wanted to do the same thing,” he said.

Last week, at least 60 detainees being held at the Dartmouth ICE detention facility went on a hunger strike beginning on either July 17 or 18. Sources provided different timelines regarding the strike. At the time, Darling said the hunger strike ended on July 20, however Families for Freedom, an immigration advocacy group, said the strike did not end and a second strike began on July 20.

Darling said the protest involving sheriff's office inmates was not a hunger strike, as inmates continued to eat food purchased from the canteen like ramen noodles and Pop-Tarts, and only refused the prepared meals served by the jail.

Darling said that the issues brought up by the inmates were largely the same as those cited by the ICE detainees: quality of food and medical care. The inmates in the main jail were also concerned about the heat in the jail, which is not air conditioned, and requested new basketballs as the ones in the recreation yard were popped and weather-damaged.

“The guards are in the units all day, and they don’t think it’s too hot,” Darling said in response to concerns about the heat in the jail. He also said that the jail has placed a purchase order for new basketballs.

Darling contends that the medical care and food are of a high quality. He said that the food is “not Pasta House food,” and that inmates will not be served “steaks and cheeseburgers,” but they do get meat and vegetables prepared to FDA standards as part of a menu designed by a nutritionist.

Darling said that the medical care available to inmates is “very, very good,” although inmates are not always able to continue taking the same prescription medicine they were prescribed outside the jail.

For example, he said that Suboxone, a medication used to treat opioid addiction, will not be prescribed in the jail, and that doctors instead prescribe medication “more appropriate for the jailhouse environment.”