North Dartmouth, MA — Today, the FANG Collective and Detention Watch Network are celebrating the news that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will cut the contract at the Bristol County Detention Center in Massachusetts. Along with the end of the Irwin Detention Center contract in Georgia, also announced today, this is the first time ICE has cut a contract for a detention center in recent years. The announcement signals a major win for people who’ve been detained at the facility and bravely spoken out against its abuses and for local organizations who have long fought to shut it down.
The announcement comes five months after the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office found that the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office violated the civil rights of currently detained people in ICE custody, including the use of flash bang grenade, pepper spray, pepper-ball, anti-riot shields, and dogs against currently detained people last year. In addition to horrific conditions inside, Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson has long been criticized for his support for Donald Trump and anti-immigrant policies, most notably offering to send currently incarcerated people to build Trump’s border wall and stating that elected officials in sanctuary jurisdictions should be placed under arrest.
While Bristol County's immigration detention contract and the 287(g) agreement to deputize police as deportation agents have ended, the Bristol County Detention Center will remain open for others in the criminal punishment system. We echo the calls to shut down the facility overall.
Today’s announcement to cut Bristol County’s Detention Center’s contract comes in conjunction with the news that the Irwin’s Detention Center’s contract will also be cut in Ocilla, GA and that ICE’s detention system will go under review. Encouraged by today’s actions, advocates say today’s announcement is long overdue, demanding the Biden administration continue to cut detention contracts, shut down facilities for good and ensure that people are released and not transferred to other detention facilities.
In response to Bristol’s contract being cut, national and local immigrants’ rights advocates issued the following statements:
Silky Shah, Executive Director of Detention Watch Network, said:
“First and foremost, we applaud the brave detained people who have demanded their freedom. The shut down of Bristol is happening because of their bravery and the years of advocacy work led by local groups documenting how inhumane and unjust the facility is. And while we are celebrating this win, we know that this must be the first step of many, including ensuring that people are released and not transferred to other detention facilities when contracts are cut. Bristol exemplifies how the system as a whole is fundamentally flawed and we call on the Biden administration to continue to cut detention contracts and shut down facilities for good. Simply put, everyone should be able to navigate their immigration case at home and in community — not behind bars in immigration detention.“
Sherrie Anne Andre, who was incarcerated for 30 days after taking action against the Bristol County ICE agreement, said:
“While I am feeling a sense of relief and gratitude towards those who have relentlessly pushed for the dissolution of this ICE contract, I know that the relationships between ICE and Bristol County have been forged, and that he will continue to abuse his position of power while inflicting the harms of white supremacy on our communities. Contracts should burn. Prisons should burn. We need to continue to forge our own relationships with each other outside of these harmful systems to build a beautiful future for all of us.”
Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition building power through collective advocacy, grassroots organizing, and strategic communications to abolish immigration detention in the United States. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level. Visit detentionwatchnetwork.org. Follow on Twitter @DetentionWatch.
The FANG Collective launched its Shut Down ICE campaign at the Bristol County Detention Center in 2018 with a direct action that shut down all vehicle entrances to the facility. Despite facing police violence and retaliation, FANG continues to organize in Bristol County and takes action to resist ICE in other areas of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Visit thefangcollective.org. Follow on Twitter @FangCollective.