Illegal immigration detainees in Bristol County deemed by ICE to be a danger to the community have been released by a federal judge due to coronavirus concerns, a move slammed earlier in the day by Sheriff Thomas Hodgson.

“I think as much as the judge may be trying to, perhaps deal with this coronavirus, I’ve said from Day One — the answer is not to put people back in the community,” Hodgson said before a second wave of detainee releases was ordered later in the afternoon.

Among the detainees released Tuesday include a Haitian national who’s been arraigned in Massachusetts 48 times on various offenses and a Sierra Leone citizen with 13 convictions, including four for violating an abuse prevention order against women.

A civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court last month called for ICE detainees to be released before the coronavirus spreads in Bristol County detention facilities, though no cases among detainees were reported as of Tuesday.

Federal Judge William Young released 10 inmates last week who had not been charged with a crime, but earlier Tuesday rescinded his release order for Jervis Vernon, a Jamaican national convicted in the United Kingdom for rape, robbery and assault charges, court filings say.

ICE declined comment Tuesday on whether Vernon had been detained again after being processed for release Monday.

Hodgson said detainees aren’t likely to have a support system outside detention and could easily turn toward illicit activity to support a drug habit or end up in an emergency room if they get ill with the coronavirus.

“They’re not interested in a really comprehensive solution that makes sense,” Hodgson said of Lawyers for Civil Rights, which filed the lawsuit, and others who have been calling for releases. “They’re interested in just pushing their agenda, getting people out of jail. Myself and law enforcement took an oath, that’s not on their radar.”

Lawyers for Civil Rights in a statement Tuesday said Young’s order is one of the first in the country where a court ordered humanitarian release for immigrant detainees “not based on individualized medical risk factors.”

Counsel for detainees did not immediately return a request for comment.

The advocacy group Bristol County for Correctional Justice also released a statement Tuesday about inmates at Bristol County’s Ash Street Jail, disputing Hodgson’s claim of adhering to sanitation and social distancing efforts.

Hodgson denied the group’s allegations, saying inmates are social distancing and being fed in their cells away from others.

A hearing on the federal suit will continue Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court.


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