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ICE detainees in the Bristol County House of Correction raise concerns about the spread of COVID-19, demand release

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Two separate and serious episodes recently occurred and have alarmed the entire detainee population of unit B…


On Friday March 20, 51 people detained by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Bristol County House of Correction released a letter raising concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 in the facility. The letter includes four demands outlining different ways in which people can be released from the facility to protect them from the spread of the virus.

The letter speaks of correctional officers who have continued to work their shifts despite having flu like symptoms, overcrowded conditions at the facility, and a medical professional at the facility telling people detained there that “infection of the whole ICE facility population is inevitable and will occur within the next 30 days”.

In the letter, the group of 51 demanded:

  1. Detainees with serious medical conditions should be released immediately;
  2. Detainees considered low risk (without aggravated felonies), or detainees who have not had their bond hearing should be released immediately;
  3. Detainees with scheduled hearings that gets rescheduled shall qualify for immediate bond hearing/release;
  4. Detainees who consented to be deported, yet still present at the facility shall depart the United States within five business days.

The full version of the letter is included below. A copy of the letter, including the signatures of the 51 people held at the facility who endorsed it, can also be found at: ShutDownICEnow.org

The Bristol County House of Correction detained people on behalf of ICE through an Intergovernmental Service Agreement (IGSA) signed between the Bristol County Sheriff’s Department and ICE. The Bristol County Sheriff’s Department also has a 287(g) contract with ICE which allows Sheriff’s to detain people on immigration charges.


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Several community groups, including The FANG Collective, have protested the County’s contracts with ICE. In 2018 people detained by ICE at the facility launched a hunger strike to demand more humane conditions. At a protest organized in solidarity with the hunger strikers, four members of the FANG Collective were arrested. One of those arrested, Sherrie Andre, is currently serving a 30 day sentence at the Bristol County House of Corrections after being found guilty of charges related to the protest.

The Bristol County Sheriff’s Department is run by Sheriff Thomas Hodgson. Hodgson, the President of Donald Trump’s reelection campaign in Massachusetts, has faced criticism for his close ties to the administration and for the conditions at the facilities he oversees. The Bristol County House of Corrections has the highest suicide rate of any prison in the State.


FULL LETTER FROM 51 PEOPLE DETAINED BY ICE IN BRISTOL COUNTY

To whom it might concern:

The ICE detainees of unit B of the Bristol County Correctional Center, individually and collectively would like to highlight serious concerns about the outbreak of the COVID-19 Virus within the facility of the Bristol Correctional Center.

The facility safety conditions and the conditions of it’s personnel, in light of two recent and separate episodes have raised the concern into a very serious matter.

Specifically, on March 14, 2020 a Correctional Officer was observed to be symptomatic of the COVID-19 Virus during his shift followed by another CO on March 16, 2020 that was later on replaced by a colleague.

Two separate and serious episodes recently occurred and have alarmed the entire detainee population of unit B and prompted a number of detainees to file their own Sick Call/Medical Encounter Request.

Unit B is comprised of (66 beds, 57 of them occupied, one of them filled as recently as 24 hours ago.

Two major concerns are expressed in this letter:

  1. The reckless behavior of the two separate Correctional Officers that reported for duty showing symptoms of the COVID-19 Virus created extreme alarm and anxiety among all detainees;
  2. The overcrowded living conditions of the detainees in unit B, 57 to be precise is in net contrast with State mandatory guidelines of max 25 and Federal guidelines of a max of 10. This is unacceptable to the health and wellbeing of all detainees. On March 15, 2020 a note was posted in the unit by Sheriff Thomas M Hodgson’s office stating among other the following: “…Given the close quarters and need for daily contact, our correctional facilities and jail are extremely vulnerable for residents, staff, volunteers, and visitors to become infected.” The three feet distance between bunk beds is in net contrast with the mandatory six feet safety distance between individuals.
  3. Today at around 12pm medical personnel in their unofficial vest stated that the infection of the whole ICE facility population is inevitable and will occur within the next 30 days. Such statement spread faster than the virus itself among detainees that are now extremely agitated and panicking.

Accordingly, it is imperative that the following measures should be implemented effectively immediately:

  1. Detainees with serious medical condition should be released immediately;
  2. Detainees considered low risk (without aggravated felonies), or detainees who have not had their bond hearing should be released immediately;
  3. Detainees with scheduled hearings that gets rescheduled shall qualify for immediate bond hearing/release;
  4. Detainees who consented to be deported, yet still present at the facility shall depart the US within five business days.

If you have any further question please address your correspondence to TEAM B attention Darcy McMenamin, Bristol County Correctional Center, ICE B, 400 Faunce Corner Road, North Dartmouth, MA, 02747.

Respectfully submitted and signed by 51 detainees. Original is attached. The remaining six inmates refused to sign the petition in fear of retaliation.

NOTE:

WE ARE HOPING THAT YOU WILL MOBILIZE ON OUR BEHALF BY CONTACTING YOUR LOCAL CONGRESSMAN AND ANY AND ALL TV AND MEDIA OUTLET. ALONG WITH YOUR LOCAL AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION FOUNDATION (A.C.L.U.) AT THE ADDRESS POSTED ON OUR LETTER.

WE ARE TRAPPED INSIDE A STORAGE AND IN FEAR FOR OUR LIFE. PLEASE HELP!

THANK YOU, TEAM B