The Massachusetts division of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the state over their treatment of addicts. Massachusetts is one of the only states that incarcerates those who have an addiction but have not been convicted a crime. The ACLU is setting out to change this practice and they are starting by bringing the state to court.
The unconstitutional practice of jailing a person who is suffering from an addiction started because the state does not have enough beds in their treatment centers to handle the amount of addicts in the area. Law enforcement and families of addicts have the right to request that a person be civilly detained in order to prevent them from using more drugs. When beds are full, which is almost always, those who are being civilly detained get transferred into the Framingham or Bridgewater jails. Once in the jails that addicts are brought to a detox within the prison system that cannot provide adequate care, according to the ACLU.
In Massachusetts the accepted method of care for treating a drug addiction, specifically heroin, is to employ some sort of opiate blocker, like buprenorphine mixed with naloxone, to aid with the withdrawal symptoms. Instead, the DOC in Massachusetts only provides over the counter medication, like Tylenol or Tums. Once through the detox, addicts are placed with general population and can be held up to 90 days. The average stay is being reported as two weeks.
The ACLU states that these practices are unconstitutional and harmful to an addict. The state is responding by promising to add more beds to their state run treatment centers. The lawsuit that was filed by the ACLU focuses on women. “They are treated like prisoners” says Jessie Rossman, an ACLU staff attorney. The ACLU is fighting to get the courts to prohibit the DOC from treating women coming into the jail for drug addiction.
The ACLU insists that those suffering from a drug addiction and are not convicted of a crime should be sent directly to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.