Immigration detainees in Bristol County are calling for an emergency release from a federal judge before the coronavirus breaks detention facilities causing “irreversible damage”: a phone call that the sheriff’s office is slamming as frivolous and fake.
Civil rights lawyers will discuss immediate action on behalf of ICE detainees on Monday in federal court in a hearing on Zoom’s webcast, targeting Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson and immigration and customs officials with claims of poor living conditions.
“Their confinement conditions are a powder keg, which will engulf the facility once triggered,” the defendant adviser wrote of the coronavirus threat to the Bristol County Correction Chamber and the Immigration Detention Center C. Carlos Carreiro a North Dartmouth.
The detainees argue that in the case filed Friday they are free of adequate soap, toilet paper and cleaning products; that new prisoners are admitted without COVID-19 tests; that staff are working with coronavirus symptoms and medical treatment is denied.
“I’ve been to 4 different establishments (sic) and haven’t seen any inhumane places like BCSO,” said Pamlar Ferreira, a prisoner at the Bristol House of Correction in a handwritten letter dated Friday. Ferreira also claims that a woman was recently brought home with a “horrible cough” and that no cleaning supplies were provided to the detainees.
The Bristol County Sheriff’s Office reported the charges on Sunday, calling the claims of detainees who have not received health screening “absurd and untrue.”
“The lawsuit is completely frivolous and full of claims on the BCSO that are 100% false,” said a sheriff’s office spokesman in a statement.
The sheriff’s office also claimed that there are currently no detainees, inmates or staff with COVID-19 or suspected of having the disease.
Julio Cesar Medeiros Nieves, a Brazilian citizen at the Bristol County House of Correction and plaintiff in the lawsuit, claimed symptomatic guards, beds only 3 feet apart and inadequate meals eaten closely together, ignoring the widespread health suggestions of “social distancing” keeping a distance of 6 feet.
Civil rights lawyers cited six recent federal court rulings across the country calling for the release of various forms of relief to detainees, as well as examples of law enforcement in large cities that have released thousands of detainees.
The detainee council also denounced ICE’s national response to the crisis, referring to a February response in a separate lawsuit in which ICE called the coronavirus concerns in “purely speculative” detention facilities.
“Our customers are afraid of their lives,” said Oren Nimni, representing the Bristol detainees, in a statement from last week. “… The only known measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 are social distancing and hygiene. None of these are available from Bristol County. “