Violence at Bristol County jail over COVID-19 tests


May 1, 2020
CommonWealth Magazine
By Sarah Betancourt

Conflicting reports on what happened, but officials estimate $25,000 in damage

ICE DETAINEES being held at the Bristol County jail on Friday night resisted efforts to transport them as a group to be tested for COVID-19, but what happened next was unclear as correction officials and reports from inside the facility gave conflicting accounts.

According to Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson’s office, the sheriff was “rushed” by a group of detainees who were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms but were refusing to be tested. The office said the detainees barricaded themselves in the unit, “ripping out washing machines and pipes off the wall,” causing $25,000 worth of damage.

A spokesman for the sheriff’s office said correction officials regained control and the detainees were moved into single cells in another area at the North Dartmouth facility. The detainee unit, where the jail holds undocumented immigrants for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, is now empty.

Rev. Annie Gonzalez Milliken, a pastor with the Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Network, gave a different account. She said she got a call from a detainee in the unit around 6:30 p.m., who handed the phone off to Marco Battistotti, an immigrant detainee housed at the facility. Battistotti previously signed a letter in March to public officials asking them to assist in the release of detainees to house arrest due to concerns about COVID-19 spread in tight quarters.

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