The ACLU of Massachusetts and law firm Foley Hoag today sued the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) for information about a violent incident that occurred this month at the BCSO’s immigration detention facility. The reported incident involved an encounter between BCSO personnel and immigration detainees that escalated to physical violence, and resulted in the hospitalization of three detainees.
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson previously made multiple, detailed public assertions about the incident, including in a press conference, a radio interview, and multiple statements on social media. After receiving a public records request from the ACLU of Massachusetts, however, the BCSO suddenly reversed course and now claims that all information about the incident must be shielded from public view.
“The public deserves to know what happened in Bristol County’s immigration detention facility,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “That is especially true when the leader of that government institution has been accused of personal misconduct during the incident, and given ongoing controversy about potentially unsafe conditions there. This oversight should be a foundation upon which we hold sheriffs accountable to the job voters elect them to do, namely preserving public safety.”
The ACLU of Massachusetts sent a public records request on May 7, seeking audiovisual recordings, reports, and other records concerning the incident. The public records request also includes communications between the BCSO and any federal department or agency, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Executive Office of the President, concerning the incident.
The new lawsuit was filed under Massachusetts’ public records law after the BCSO issued a blanket denial of the ACLU request. The BCSO refused to produce even a single piece of paper about the incident in response to the request.