Protest in Dartmouth Over Treatment of Bristol County Inmates
DARTMOUTH — A protest burst out at the UMASS Dartmouth School of Law on Friday night over treatment of inmates held at the Bristol County House of Correction.
A group totaling roughly thirty people made their way from the UMASS Dartmouth building on Faunce Corner Road up to the Bristol County House of Correction, bearing signs reading “Heats on Hodgson!”, “Abolish the Police” and “#Free Them All” from across the street. The protest was mainly organized by the activist group Bristol County for Correctional Justice, with a mix of area residents affiliated with other organizations such as the NAACP and Coalition for Social Justice.
Protestors say they were fighting the perceived treatment of inmates held in Bristol County by Sheriff Tom Hodgson, claiming that inmates are given unhealthy meals, are starved, and are medically neglected, among other abuses.
Organizers say that they want to continue to push elected public officials, including Attorney General Maura Healey, to further investigate and prosecute the Bristol County Sheriff's Office. Healey sent a letter to the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security and the Department of Correction last month asking the departments to “conduct a thorough investigation, and if necessary, take action to establish and enforce minimum standards for the care and custody for all persons committed to county correctional facilities.”
Marlene Pollock, one of the main organizers of Friday's protest, says a top priority for the group is to get the attention of Healey and Secretary of Public Safety Daniel Bennett to use further resources to investigate the Sheriff.
“You can't investigate yourself, that's ridiculous. We feel that too many people are dying and too many people are suffering. We want those in authority to exercise their power and delve into it and make this guy accountable. He's not accountable,” said Pollock. “The food is so unhealthy, but aside from that they don't even get enough calories as grown adults, so people are hungry and people lose a lot of weight. The food is spoiled.”
However, concerns among the group go past the quality of food inmates are served in Bristol County, a situation that saw more than 250 inmates go on a hunger strike that ended Thursday. Protestors also claim that Hodgson fails to provide inmates in his facility with adequate medical treatment.
One protestor, Wendy Graca, even went on to accuse Hodgson of feeding the inmates garbage and forcing them into slave labor.
“Prison is supposed to be the punishment, nothing more than that. Being locked away from your loved ones and society and having certain rights stripped from your life is the punishment,” Graca said. “Going above and beyond to use these people for free slave labor, starving them and giving them garbage for food, and not giving them decent medical care, that's not what's supposed to be part of the punishment. Just being in prison is supposed to be the punishment.”
Sheriff Hodgson spent Friday afternoon on the WBSM airwaves, just hours before he met protestors on Faunce Corner Road and spoke with them in person. Hodgson called out organizer Marlene Pollock on the air for failing to go to him directly with her concerns of prisoner mistreatment, and says “the only reason that she doesn't know the facts is because she doesn't want to know them. It fits her agenda.”
The Sheriff went back and forth in debate with the crowd, but was also seen having separated conversations with individual members of the protest. Hodgson says he was trying to get an understanding of the group's point of view from issues at the House of Correction to those on the national political stage.