Correctional Officers in Bristol County House of Corrections Release Tear Gas on People Trapped in Their Cells

Press Contact: Vanesa Suarez, 203-781-6398,
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, CO of Bristol County House of Correction

On the evening of Wednesday, May 13, 2020, for the second time this month, correctional officers inside the Bristol County House of Corrections used violent force on people detained in Unit EC, understood to be a mixed unit consisting of people caged for criminal and immigration matters.

The attack was first reported by a person in Unit EE of the Bristol County House of Corrections at about 7:30 PM on Wednesday and later corroborated by other individuals in Unit EC. X was on the phone with their sister when they saw someone dragged out of the unit and pepper-sprayed in the hallway outside of Unit EE. The individual reported hearing everyone in the unit coughing, and they started to struggle with speaking to their sister as the person who was pepper sprayed was brought into Unit EE, causing those locked in surrounding cells to start choking from the fumes. The man who was sprayed was then put into a cold shower with his clothing still on. X, chained at their hands, feet, and waist, could not finish their conversation on the phone and was afraid the correctional officers would repeat all the violence of May 1st.

When contacted that night, Bristol County officials stated they were unaware of any issues relating to Unit EE. The following day, other individuals in Unit EE confirmed that an older person had been pepper-sprayed by four correctional officers in the doorway and that everyone in the unit was coughing and choking that night in the dark, not knowing why they were struggling to breathe.

It was later revealed that individuals in Unit EC had been tear-gassed while locked in their cells around the same time on Wednesday night in response to complaints about the conditions of their confinement. Everyone was crying and coughing, and one individual shared that they had to “wet their face mask and lie down on the ground in order to breathe.” When the correctional officers returned after the gas had dissipated, they removed two individuals from Unit EC. This happened around the same time those in Unit EE witnessed individuals being pepper-sprayed in the hallway.

In addition to these flagrant abuses of power, we continue to receive reports that correctional officers are refusing to take proper precautions to ensure the safety of people detained there; not wearing proper protective gear, promoting cross contamination by transferring individuals between units, and failing to provide basic hygiene products.

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