DARTMOUTH — Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson has responded to an investigation requested by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey following allegations that question the safety of inmates held at the Bristol County House of Correction.

Attorney General Healey sent a letter to the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security and the Department of Correction last week 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.”

Sheriff Hodgson publicly demanded an apology from Healey during a press conference held at the Dartmouth jail, and says that Healey’s actions were politically motivated.

“I think that’s certainly supported by the fact that by now everyone knows the Attorney has either filed or signed onto at least 30 lawsuits involving President Trump,” stated Hodgson. “I think what she’s done with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office in recommending this clearly smacks partisan politics knowing the positions I’ve taken on immigration and supporting the President of the United States.”

Healey says that inmate suicides at Bristol County facilities are of a particular concern, calling them an “outlier” in comparison to other county jails in the state.  In her letter, the Attorney General cites 2017 articles from the Boston Globe and WGBH while alleging that from 2006 through 2016 that Bristol County facilities housed only thirteen percent of the total amount of inmates in the state’s county jails, yet accounted for nearly a quarter of all jail suicides. She adds that during that timeframe, Bristol County jails had fifty-percent more suicides than Suffolk County and more than twice as many as Essex and Worcester Counties.

The Attorney General also cited recent lawsuits as well as reports received by the Civil Rights Division of the Attorney General’s Office that support claims of inadequate mental health screening and treatment, denials of medical care, overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, poor nutritional resources, and a lack of adequate programming at Bristol County House of Correction facilities.

Hodgson backs up his claims that inmates housed in Bristol County are not at a safety risk with his record of accreditations by multiple bureaus and departments as well as a number of inspections performed at the facility by various state and federal bureaus and departments.

“We are nationally accredited by the people, the experts in the field on our prison operations. In our last inspection, which was a three-day long, exhausting operation from soup to nuts. Our health program, our operations, our cleanliness issues, our food services, every aspect of our operation was inspected,” said Hodgson.  “Our last accreditation by the ACA was a year and a half ago. I sat in here with my command staff at the closing session and I was so proud. I believe we have some of the best staff in the nation, and they confirmed it.”

Hodgson says he found out about the allegations and the call for an investigation on Tuesday, and that he spoke with EOPSS Secretary Daniel Bennett about the issue on the phone on Wednesday. Hodgson says that Bennett told him “there is no reason to go further with an inspection.”

“She claims our inmates allegedly are held in solitary confinement and segregation for long periods of time. She’s talked about them being exposed to harsh conditions and inadequate food and all these other things she knows nothing about.” Hodgson said. “Again, had she really cared and was interested in it, she would’ve picked up the phone and called me, or come visit, we’re an open book here.”

The Sheriff went on to further defend his staff, and says that the request for Healey to apologize isn’t for him personally, but is instead for his employees.

“If I had a choice between listening to the Attorney General telling me about how to run a jail and people that have been doing it for 29 years, who are now hired to inspect jails all over the country by national organizations, you can bet she’s the last person I’d be listening to,” Hodgson said. “I’ve said it many times publicly, ‘I wouldn’t trade my staff for any other in the country’.”

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