by The FANG Collective
Dartmouth, MA: On Monday, March 23rd a second letter signed by 52 people being held in ICE detention in Bristol County was released detailing the conditions at the facility amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
This second letter, which is addressed to Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Ed Markey and other decision makers, goes into greater detail about the concerns that people in detention at the facility have, pre-existing medical conditions that people are facing and a list of more specific demands. An initial letter from 51 people held at the facility was released on Friday.
The Bristol County House of Correction detained people on behalf of I.C.E. through an Intergovernmental Service Agreement (IGSA) signed between the Bristol County Sheriff’s Department and I.C.E. The Bristol County Sheriff’s Department also has a 287(g) contract with I.C.E. which allows Sheriff’s to detain people on immigration charges.
Several community groups, including The FANG Collective, have protested the County’s contracts with I.C.E. In 2018 people detained by I.C.E. 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.
SECOND LETTER FROM 52 PEOPLE DETAINED BY ICE IN BRISTOL COUNTY
To whom it might concern:
The I.C.E. detainee 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 Bristol Correctional Center. The facility safety conditions and the condition 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. He never returned to unit B leaving all detainees very worried. The second C.O. that showed symptom was on March 16, 2020 and was later replaced by a colleague to then return with coughing and sneezing.
Those two separate and serious episode recently occurred have alarmed the entire detainee population of unit B and prompted a number of detainees to file their own Sick Call/Medical Encounter Request.
On March 22, 2020 C.O. Aylwart during a conversation with one of the detainees stated the following “You don’t get it, this [coronavirus] is nothing more than a flu” missing the gravity of the situation entirely. Once told the current situation the Italy is experiencing he dismissed the topic entirely. This naive behavior is of a grave concern of us. How can we be sure that this CO adheres the Federal recommendations when he totally ignores the existence of the Covid-19? His behavior was reckless to say the least.
Unit B in comprised of sixty-ix (66) beds, fifty-seven (57) of them occupied, one of them filled as recently as less than a week ago.
Our concerns are the following:
-The reckless behavior of the two separate Correctional Officers that reported for duty showing symptom of the COVID-19 Virus created extreme alarm and anxiety among all detainees.
-The naive behavior of C.O. Aylwart created fear and anxiety among us and should not be permitted.
-The lack of reassurance from top management that those officers posed no risk to us is unacceptable. We need for ICE to assure us all that we are safe here.
-The overcrowded living conditions of the detainees in unit B, fifty-seven (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 resident, staff, volunteers, and visitors to become infected.” The three (3) feet distance between bunk beds is in net contrast with the mandatory six (6) feet safety distance between individuals. On March 22, 2020 Sec. of Homeland Security Chad Wolf in a televised interview stated the following when referring to ICE detention centers: “There is a serious danger for the officers” as if detainees are somehow immune from contracting the Covid-19 through correctional officers as vehicle.
-On March 18, 2020 at around 12:00pm 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 spreaded 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:
-Detainees with serious medical condition should be released immediately. Our survey collected a total of 28 inmates that have conditions such as:
–High blood pressure
–Complex tear of the upper meniscus (right knee)
–Healing bone fracture
–Urinal track infection
–Severe back spinal injury
–High blood pressure
–Low white blood cell count
–Tested positive for TB
–Recovering from broken shoulder
–70% lung function
–Double desection of main neck arteries
–Recent internal bleeding
–Diagnosed with weak immune system
–Mental health issues
–Fear and anxiety
–Difficult in sleeping
–Double personality disorder
-Detainees considered low risk (without aggravated felonies), or detainees who have not had their bond hearing should be released immediately;
-Detainees with scheduled hearings that gets rescheduled shall qualify for immediate bond hearing/release;
-Detainees who consented to be deported, yet still present at the facility shall depart the U.S. within five (5) business days. Our survey shows that eleven (11) detainees have a final deportation order, some of them as old as of July 2019. Those detainees are now being held hostage by ICE.
In the meantime, in no particular order
5. The current chow is inadequate for us all, it is weak and does not provide us enough nutrients to fight even a simple disease, nevertheless to say a Covid-19. We are respectfully asking the following: Chow should have more nutrients, we should have red meat, more vegetable, more fruit and more variety. We eat rice and potatoes at least seven (7) time/week. This regime is borderline punitive. We are detainees and not prisoners nor hostages.
6. The facility must be decontaminated as stated by the Sheriff. It has not been despite his televised message last week.
7. The above mentioned televised message should be distributed in writing in the spanish language.
8. We need to be reassured that both CO (Salvator and Santos) are in healthy conditions.
9. Starting immediately all non-detainees personnel entering the ICE facility should wear gloves and mask at all times as implemented in ICE court. This is non-negotiable.
10. Clergy should be allowed to visit us. Yesterday a group of clergy from PEAR were not allowed to meet with us and they were forced to return back to Boston without meeting with us.
11. Please do not open or take our mail. Our mail should reach the intended person in its original format.
12. Same as above for the grievance. Third party only (no Lieutenants) should retrieve grievance.
13. Please provide us with a free/unlimited use of the phone (including international calls) for the next four (4) weeks.
14. Please provide us with accurate informations regarding officers/personnel/prisoners and or detainees that have been tested positive for the Covid-19 Virus in real time.
15. Starting immediately, ICE detainees should not have any contact with prisoners when in the medical facility, or in any other facilities.
16. Starting immediately the scanning device in booking facility should be disinfected after each scan.
17. Provide hand sanitizer at point of egress.
18. Provide assurance that the soap in our bathroom kills 99.9% of germs and bacteria and has not been diluted.
19. Provide cleaning workers with yellow rubber gloves, adequate scrubber/floor brush to clean bathrooms.
20. Provide us with adequate product to disinfect the phone after each use.
We are looking forward to address all the above on March 23, 2020 with ICE major.
Respectfully submitted and signed by 52 detainees.
The remaining five inmates refused to sign the petition in fear of retaliation.