Former Immigrations Detainees Sue Bristol County Sheriff
DARTMOUTH — More than a dozen former immigrations detainees held at the Bristol County House of Correction in Dartmouth have filed a lawsuit against Sheriff Thomas Hodgson along with his office and two federal agencies for allegedly violating their rights.
The 17 detainees are also suing jail superintendent Steven Souza and 26 unnamed correctional officers as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, along with ICE New England director Todd Lyons.
The federal lawsuit comes after DHS terminated its contract with the Bristol County Sheriff's Office last year over concerns that detainees' rights were violated during an altercation at the facility on May 1, 2020.
"The recent lawsuit brought by criminal illegal aliens previously held at the Dartmouth jail is the latest political attack against me, and the latest professional attack on the dedicated, nationally accredited corrections staff at the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office," Hodgson said in a statement Tuesday night. "The frivolous lawsuit has no merit. We will vigorously defend it, and we will prevail."
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey's office found in a 60-page report following the 2020 incident that corrections officers had used excessive force and acted with "deliberate indifference" towards detainees that "risked harm to everyone involved."
At the time, a spokesperson for Hodgson called the report a "politically motivated stunt" and said it was "littered with baseless allegations," adding that the A.G.'s office failed to ask the sheriff a single question.
The sheriff's office agreement with DHS had previously allowed the facility to hold federal ICE detainees.
Former detainees allege in the 83-page complaint that their fifth and eighth amendment rights were violated, as they were allegedly denied due process and handed cruel and unusual punishments.
They further allege that they were subject to violations of the Rehabilitation Act and the American with Disabilities Act as well as negligence and assault and battery.
In the lawsuit, which was officially filed in late April, the plaintiffs detail the physical injuries and mental health issues they allegedly suffered and continue to suffer due to the violent May 2020 incident, in which three people were hospitalized.
Of the 17 plaintiffs, five are described in the complaint as being lawful permanent residents of the U.S., and one was described as a U.S. citizen who was a U.S. citizen the entire time he was confined at the ICE detention facility in Dartmouth.
One legal permanent resident named in the complaint has lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years after being brought over by his parents, and no longer has any ties to the country where he was born, according to the document.
Two were listed as asylum seekers, whose detention is typically not allowed under international law, according to Human Rights Watch.
The plaintiffs are seeking compensation and punitive damages along with attorneys’ fees.
A sheriff's office spokesperson said that a comment is forthcoming.