Bristol County Sheriff’s Office Responds to Rape Claims in New Report
DARTMOUTH — The Bristol County Sheriff's Office has responded to an allegation of rape at the Dartmouth jail included in a new report from a Boston-based non-profit organization, stating that no such claims were ever made to facility staff.
The report from Prisoners' Legal Services released last week highlights stories of sexual harassment and other misconduct in Massachusetts prisons, as disclosed by incarcerated women in interviews and surveys.
In it, author Sarah Nawab described allegations from an unnamed transgender woman she called "H," who was previously held at Bristol County House of Correction in Dartmouth.
Although the facility holds both men and women, Nawab wrote, "H" was held in the male side, despite identifying as a woman.
While there, male corrections officers "routinely strip searched her," Nawab cited her as reporting.
"In addition, an incarcerated man she shared a cell with raped her," the report alleges.
But according to Bristol County Sheriff's Office spokesman Jonathan Darling, the alleged rape was never reported to officials.
"No transgender inmates in Bristol County have ever made claims to us that they were raped," he said.
Darling further noted that transgender inmates are usually kept alone in cells, and it would be "very rare" that they would have a cellmate.
He added that Prisoners' Legal Services "made no effort to verify any of this" with the office, and stated that the group is "just pushing their agenda" with the report.
But in the report, Nawab notes that there is a "clear chilling effect" that prevents incarcerated people reporting harassment or abuse.
According to Nawab, this is because the system is self-policing, with officers often facing no consequences, while incarcerated women can often experience retaliation when incidents are reported — without the ability to escape their abuser.
The author cites one state prison inmate, called "S" in the report, as asking interviewers on the subject of filing grievances: “Is it really worth me going through this when nothing will happen?"
In the report, Nawab suggests establishing independent oversight for sexual harassment or abuse claims in order to increase accountability, among other potential solutions.