Advocates decry practice of jailing men for addiction treatment

The Boston Globe
June 26th, 2019
By Felice J. Freyer

A 31-year-old man named Jonathan stood up before a crowd in a State House lounge Wednesday and spoke about a horrific experience. In April, he said, his family abruptly decided that he needed treatment for his drinking. So they took advantage of a state law called Section 35 to have him civilly committed — ordered into treatment by a judge.

Soon he was shackled in a police van and taken to the Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center, or MASAC, a Plymouth treatment program run by the state Department of Correction.

It was surrounded by tall fences topped with razor wire. Jonathan said he’d never been to prison, but this sure looked like one, and he hadn’t committed a crime. He was forbidden to leave for weeks.

This happens only in Massachusetts, to about 3,000 men a year. While most states have laws allowing civil commitment for addiction treatment, only Massachusetts turns the majority of civilly committed patients over to the care of the Department of Correction. Five years ago, the state outlawed jailing women for addiction treatment, but still allows it for men.

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