Letter: It's time to address and modernize the Ash Street jail

Posted 6/24/22

The Bristol County Ash Street jail in New Bedford has the distinction of being the oldest continuously functioning jail in the United States. More significantly, however, the facility is a …

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Letter: It's time to address and modernize the Ash Street jail

Posted

The Bristol County Ash Street jail in New Bedford has the distinction of being the oldest continuously functioning jail in the United States. More significantly, however, the facility is a notoriously dilapidated, unsound and unhealthful building housing people who are detained awaiting trial or serving sentences for misdemeanors.

Everyone who has ever entered this building, worked in it, or has been detained or sentenced can attest to the despicable condition of the cells, common areas and bathrooms.

People have reported the presence of rodents and roaches and that the walls are moldy and periodically painted over to hide this fact. Freezing cold in the winter and sweltering in the summer the incarcerated can tell you that they are never provided with sufficient blankets or proper ventilation or heating.
It is reported that the food is unhealthful, sparse and always at room temperature, even if designated as a hot meal. The kitchen in the building is unusable and unsafe so all meals are transported from the Dartmouth House of Correction.

It is presently, and consistently, complained  by several relatives of the incarcerated that due to plumbing failures raw sewage has been seeping down the walls and onto the floors of the building including the cells. All efforts to remedy the situation have been superficial and unsuccessful, and those incarcerated, detained or employed there are forced to endure the presence of raw sewage and a pervasive odor of human waste.

These conditions have been reported to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and various other governmental offices, without inducing an unannounced or pervasive inspection. And despite all the actual documented health code violations and signed affidavits there has been no action taken to alleviate the problem by the removal and transfer of  all the incarcerated people and employees from this  squalid environment.
To ignore this matter and passing it off to other departments as has occurred historically,  and thereby  allowing the continuing utilization of this facility, despite being alerted to these horrific conditions, is a dereliction of duty by all who have the power and responsibility to remove this blight upon Bristol County and the State of Massachusetts.

Betty I. Ussach

Dartmouth

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