Photos: ICE Lockup at Bristol County Jail Trashed By Detainees
The C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center at the Bristol County House of Corrections in North Dartmouth suffered heavy damage Friday night when all 26 remaining detainees at the facility trashed the facility, Sheriff Thomas Hodgson said.
Hodgson hosted a media tour of the badly damaged unit on Saturday morning, and reporters viewed sinks smashed and torn from the walls, mattresses and personal belongings strewn in the narrow aisles between bunks, holes punched in walls, and at least one shattered window.
The sheriff said the 26 detainees at Unit B of the facility are all now in individual cells in a "restricted housing area in quarantine," that an internal investigation will be conducted, and that his office may file charges.
Hodgson, speaking outside the gates of the unit, took the opportunity to blast "liberal judges," "activist groups and lawyers," and members of Congress, taking repeated aim at U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, who Saturday morning called for an independent investigation of the incident.
"He ought to be ashamed of himself," said Hodgson of Kennedy.
Hodgson said he was driving home Friday evening when he received a call that 10 detainees at the facility "would not go down to our medical unity to be tested" for COVID-19, even though they had reported having symptoms. He said he arrived at around 5:20 p.m. and went inside.
Hodgson said he repeatedly had "names called out" but that detainees refused to go to the medical unit. The sheriff went on to say he approached "the ringleader of all these people; a real con man" and told him to hang up the phone. The sheriff said he tried to grab the phone from the man, and the detainee yelled "stop hitting me; don't touch me."
Hodgson said that's when "the other detainees in the unit came running in force toward me and the officer standing next to me." He said one of the individuals "picked up a chair, threw it and hit me with the chair."
The detainees began "trashing the entire unit," Hodgson said. They blockaded a door with tables, pulled dryers out of a laundry room and jammed them against a door, "turned on the hot water for the coffee and let it just run through the coffee up on the camera," destroyed a computer at the officers' workstation, ripped a television off the wall, and took a pole from the bathroom and used it to bash holes in the wall of the unit's prayer room.
"They essentially made the unit uninhabitable," Hodgson said.
Security officers, including a K9 unit and special operation team, gained control. No outside law enforcement units were called in. Hodgson said no jail personnel were injured, but that he did suffer a bruised arm from being hit with the chair.
Hodgson said tensions are high at the facility because "some people are in; some people are out." In recent weeks a federal judge ordered the release of 47 ICE detainees at the facility after their lawyers filed petitions with the court expressing concerns about the spread of COVID-19 behind bars.
The sheriff blasted the judge's decision, repeated that no person detained at the jail has tested positive for COVID-19, said the facility is well-prepared to prevent the spread of contagious disease, and charged that inmates, guided by "activists and pro-immigration lawyers," were pushing a "false narrative" to the press about conditions at the facility.
Asked why the detainees did not want to go the facility's medical unit for COVID-19 tests, Hodgson said the detainees presented "bogus excuses" and different reasons, including a request that the testing be done at Unit B instead of at the medical unit.
"One of them said it's dirty down there. You know, you're talking about a medical unit, right? I mean, come on," Hodsgon said. He said the sheriff's office must follow CDC guidelines, and that if a detainee reports symptoms common to COVID-19, the person must be tested.
Immigration advocates told the Boston Globe the detainees were assaulted and pepper-sprayed by corrections officers after they protested being removed to solitary confinement or to the facility’s medical unit in the main building, which they say is unsanitary, as a result of reporting symptoms.
In recent weeks several correctional officers and other staffers at the Bristol County House of Correction have tested positive for COVID-19. Hodgson's office last week said that four have been cleared to return to work while six are still in quarantine.
Hodgson said that Friday's incident was reported to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and that ICE would also conduct an investigation. He said the incident was caught on surveillance video, but that he has not yet reviewed the video.
Asked if he would support an independent investigation of the incident, Hodgson said it would depend upon who the investigators are.
"If it's the people like Joe Kennedy, probably not. I would imagine everything that he would be doing would be going through his political filter and he's already made that clear. So we're not interested in somebody using it for their own agenda," Hodgson said.
Over the weekend, conflicting versions of Friday's incident emerged, with at least one lawyer representing ICE detainees at Bristol County blaming Hodgson for allegedly assaulting a detainee and for unnecessarily deploying armed guards with tear gas, tasers, and police dogs.