Hodgson’s jails need independent investigation
News earlier this month brought a report of the suicide of a young woman on July 3rd at the Bristol County jail. Her name is being withheld from the public, but she was being held in the women’s’ behavioral unit inside the men’s facility at the jail’s Faunce Corner location.
According to Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, who has mouthed similar words many times before, “There was absolutely no indication to anyone. This was a shock.”
This was the second suicide in just two months. On May 3rd, Mark Trafton was found in his cell at the Bristol County Sheriff’s Ash Street jail and pronounced dead by paramedics.
Despite a social media discussion that described a number of signs signaling his intent to commit suicide, a sheriff’s spokesman told one reporter that the prisoner “didn’t give any indication […] to wanting to take his own life, nor did he have any prior history or exhibit any suicidal behaviors or statements since he arrived in custody.”
Once again, the sheriff’s statement sounded scripted. “We offer our condolences to his family and we’re keeping not only them but everyone involved in this incident in our prayers.”
Like the many suicides that have occurred on Tom Hodgson’s watch, this one too is being investigated by his own department. The Bristol County District Attorney is reportedly looking into this needless death as well. A year ago reporters from the New England Center for Investigative Reporting (NECIR) looked into the epidemic of suicides at the jail and the sheriff’s self-investigation. The process they described sounded like a whitewash, noting that “Hodgson’s report concluded that his jail staff did everything right in all cases.”
But with no end to the suicides, it’s going to take more than the sheriff’s transparent exercises in self-exoneration or his “thoughts and prayers” to fix the broken systems in his jail. It’s going to take an independent investigation to determine who and what needs fixing in a place that is doing “everything right in all cases.”
On June 14th, the sheriff’s Facebook page featured an article boasting of his officers’ participation in “Zero Suicide Framework” training along with the jail’s medical provider, Correctional Psychiatric Services. Given the death at the men’s facility that had occurred only weeks before, the social media post was another dishonest piece of public relations fluff.
These latest suicides represent a return to Bristol County’s shameful record as the county jail with the worst suicide record in the Commonwealth. Bristol County for Correctional Justice reiterates our call to place the Bristol County House of Correction in receivership. The sheriff shows more interest in making the talk show circuit to disparage asylum-seekers than in running a jail humanely and professionally. An interim administrator should be appointed and there must be a full, independent investigation of the jail and the many suicides that have occurred there.
Finally, we again appeal to legislators, the Courts, the Attorney General, the State Auditor, the Inspector General, the Department of Corrections, the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, the Governor — to whom we have appealed repeatedly — stop these deaths by neglect at the Bristol County jail!
Bristol County for Correctional Justice
Support local journalism, donate to the Neighb News with PayPal.
Click here to download the entire 7/25/19 issue: 07-25-19 Regatta