Bristol County Sheriff: People Should ‘Applaud’ New Bedford Jail Staff
NEW BEDFORD — Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson has spoken out against criticism he has received in the wake of the death of Adam Howe, who died by apparent suicide at the Ash Street Jail in New Bedford on Sunday.
In an interview on WBSM's SouthCoast Tonight program Wednesday, Hodgson told hosts Chris McCarthy and Marcus Ferro that "people should have been applauding" jail staff for taking extra precautions with Howe at the facility.
According to the sheriff's office, the 34-year-old inmate took his own life by blocking his airways with wet toilet paper, after he was taken into custody on suspicion of killing his mother and burning her body outside their family home in Truro last week.
The high-profile death has rekindled awareness of the high rate of suicides at Bristol County correctional facilities, documented since 2017 and thrown into the spotlight again after a spate of deaths last year.
At the time of his death, Howe was wearing a nylon rip-resistant smock and was subject to 15-minute spot checks, the sheriff's office noted.
Hodgson said that when Howe arrived, his paperwork from Cape Cod Hospital noted that he'd been cleared for custody and had undergone a psychiatric evaluation.
"[Arrestees] have to be cleared by the hospital before they can bring them to us," he said. "My guys, in those instances, right away if somebody's medically cleared for police custody, there's no issue."
According to the sheriff, the staff member who booked Howe into the jail took it upon himself to place the inmate in an isolated cell and take his clothes away, out of concern for Howe's safety.
"People should have been applauding us, not coming after us and blaming us for this problem," Hodgson said.
He was defending himself against criticism that his office did not do enough to prevent Howe's death, after Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux told WPRI's 12 News Now that Hodgson's staff did not adequately supervise the inmate.
"Someone like this probably deserved a 24-hour eyeball watch," Heroux said in an interview with the news outlet.
Heroux is challenging Hodgson for the Bristol County Sheriff's seat in the Nov. 8 election.
"My opponent, of course, he jumped right on this thing...he used it to try to gain political points," Hodgson noted.
"You know, that family went through hell that weekend," he added. "And to use that for a political opportunity...he really owes my staff an apology, he ought to be ashamed of himself."
When asked if he has any regrets over the way Howe's case was handled, Hodgson said his only regret is that his office didn't get accurate information about "conversations with a judge, and that this guy was suicidal."
As for his critics, Hodgson noted, "what they need to do is tell me specifically what we're not doing that they would do. And they won't be able to tell you anything."