I-Team: Men With Substance Use Disorders Sent To Prison For Treatment

November 7th, 2019

Boston CBS Local
November 7, 2019
Cheryl Fiandaca


Massachusetts is the only state that sends men, and just men, suffering with substance use disorder to prison without having been charged with a crime.

Representative Ruth Balser says the state stopped sending women to jail for treatment years ago. Balser has spent her career fighting for gender equality and calls this discrimination. She filed a bill to outlaw the practice for men. “Addiction is an illness not a crime,” she said, noting that Massachusetts is the state that led the way in universal health care and should make sure people who are suffering from addiction can get the services they need in a health care facility and not a jail.

Prisoners’ Legal Services is also demanding change. In a class action lawsuit brought by 10 men, it claims the policy discriminates against men and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to Attorney Elizabeth Matos, about 2,000–3,000 people a year are civilly committed under Section 35 and many are committed multiple times. She calls the program behind bars ineffective.

Read more and watch the interview here.