Statement on Attorney General Investigation Against Bristol County
Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) applauds the investigation by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, which led to today’s finding that Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson’s “institutional failures and poor decisions . . . culminated in a calculated—that is, planned and deliberate—use of force against . . . detainees that was disproportionate to the security needs at that time and that unnecessarily caused, or risked causing, harm to all involved.” LCR represents immigrants held in civil detention at the Bristol County House of Correction in a pending class action lawsuit in federal court concerning unsafe conditions at the facility during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When law enforcement officials abuse their power and violate the law, it is essential that fierce advocates like Attorney General Healey hold them accountable and protect people’s rights. The Attorney General’s findings today follow closely on the heels of a federal court ruling that the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office has likely been “deliberately indifferent” to the health and well-being of immigrants detained during the COVID-19 pandemic. In that class action lawsuit, brought by Lawyers for Civil Rights, WilmerHale, and the Worker & Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School, U.S. District Court Judge William Young found that the immigration detainees were likely to succeed in showing that cramped conditions at the facility and a lack of adequate care violated individuals’ constitutional rights.
As a result, in Spring 2020, Judge Young ordered the release on bail of nearly 50 individuals so that they could safely quarantine at home. He also ordered ICE to stop transferring individuals into Bristol County facilities without prior Court approval. The facility’s population, which was 148 at the start of the pandemic, today currently stands at approximately 19.
Sheriff Hodgson has repeatedly been found, by both federal and state officials, to violate the rights of those in his care. He should step down before more people are harmed.
The class action, which is cited throughout the Attorney General’s report, is Savino v. Souza, No. 1:20-cv-10617-WGY (D. Mass.).