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Bristol County House of Correction Leads State in Inmate Suicides

Bristol County House Of Correction
Boston Globe via Getty Images

DARTMOUTH – Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson is defending his staff after a recent report showed that suicides among inmates in his department were more than double that of houses of correction in other Massachusetts counties.

The report from WGBH says that since 2006, Bristol County has had 50% more suicides in their jails than Suffolk County, and more than twice as many as Essex and Worcester counties.

Sheriff Hodgson says that’s through no fault of the mental health workers in the Bristol County jail system. “Everybody is screened for mental health risks when they come in,” said Hodsgon. “More often than not, you find that many of these individuals who complete suicide are generally people that don’t give you the heads up even though you’re doing what you’re supposed to do.”

Hodgson says his staff takes every precaution possible to prevent suicides, including mental screenings and sweeping rooms and inmates for contraband. Hodgson says the last thing his staff wants to see is an inmate commit suicide, as it’s a traumatic thing to discover.

“But more than that, it’s the fact that that’s what we do. We take pride in the fact that care and custody is our job. And when that falls short, even though there may not have been any indications — everybody had done everything the right way — it still doesn’t feel good.”

Hodgson believes the main culprit of the increased suicide rate is an overcapacity of the Bristol County House of Correction. The report says the detention center is operating at over 300% of design capacity, which Hodgson says has been the case for quite some time, with the state legislature offering a waiver every year to help with those costs.

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