Correctional Justice group says Bristol Co. jails moving too slow releasing prisoners amid COVID-19 crisis

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DARTMOUTH, Mass. (WPRI) — The Sheriff of Bristol County Massachusetts, Thomas Hodgson, spoke out on national television over whether prison inmates should be released amid coronavirus concerns.

Earlier this month, the state’s highest court ruled in favor of reducing numbers in Massachusetts jails to help prevent overcrowding during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the Bristol County for Correctional Justice (BCCJ) group says that ruling is moving at a slower pace, citing data from an ACLU database, than necessary to save lives.

The database suggests only ten inmates have been removed from Bristol County jails since the April 3 ruling from the court.

The SJC decided in favor of reducing numbers in the jails and urged the parole board to expedite the process, “as far as reasonably possible so as to reduce the overall number of incarcerated inmates as quickly as possible.”

BCCJ says the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office is resisting, citing one instance where they say an Assistant District Attorney requested a much higher bail than a judge granted for a person accused of drunk driving.

BCCJ is calling on Bristol Country District Attorney Thomas Quinn to get more in line with the courts.

Meanwhile, Hodgson warns the early release of inmates will increase crime. He says the Bristol County facilities are at 56% capacity and they are well equipped to handle the situation if positive cases were found in the prison population.

“We have other places we can isolate people. That’s what sheriffs were hired to do, that’s what we’re paid to do,” Hodgson said. “This isn’t something new to us. And it isn’t by accident that we have none in Bristol county and ten of our sheriff’s offices in Massachusetts have none. It’s all about protocol, it’s managing your population, but not putting them out in the communities where they can be carriers and victimize more people.”

While Hodgson says there are no positive cases with regards to those incarcerated, his office has reported four positive tests from staff members.

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