An inmate rights group is demanding Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson close the Ash Street Jail in New Bedford and enact medical care and other reforms aimed at rehabilitating incarcerated individuals.
About a dozen members of of the group Bristol County for Correctional Justice rallied Wednesday in front of the jail and delivered a list of demands to staff.
The list was drafted in response to Hodgson’s “unreasonable measures that bring harm to inmates in his care, and focuses on punishment, at the expense of rehabilitation,” the group said in a press release.
“The demands address immediate and long term changes that can be made to defend the rights of inmates to live with dignity,” they said.
“The circumstances under which people are held in the Bristol County Correctional System are unconscionable,” spokeswoman Marlene Pollock said in a statement. “We can’t believe that we even have to ask for people to be treated humanely but we make that demand today.”
Among the demands are closing the jail, ending the use of K9 teams and the sheriff’s rapid response team, ending solitary confinement, eliminating the costs of phone calls for incarcerated individuals and improving the nutritional value of the food.
Jonathan Darling, a spokesman for the sheriff, said the office has received national accreditation for its operations from the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.
“When we evaluate our operation we listen to the experts. We take no stock in, or have time for, political games played by these protesters,” Darling said.
The sheriff operates the jail, built in the early 1800s and considered one of the oldest in the country, and the Bristol County Jail and House of Correction in Dartmouth.
In May, the Biden administration ended the contract that allows the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to hold detainees at Hodgson’s facility in Dartmouth.
Last year, state Attorney General Maura Healey issued a report lambasting the sheriff for his handling of an inmate uprising.
Hodgson, a Republican and strong supporter of former President Donald Trump, attributed the criticism and actions against his office to partisan politics.