Changes to Section 35 are being reviewed by lawmakers. Here’s what you should know.
“Section 35 is meant to be a very limited application.”
December 1, 2021
By Dialynn Dwyer
Massachusetts ended the practice in 2016 of sending women to correctional facilities for addiction treatment when they are civilly committed.
Now, an effort is underway to do the same for men who are involuntarily committed under the state’s Section 35 law.
The push comes amid the debate over how to best address the ongoing humanitarian crisis at Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard in Boston, which has emerged as the epicenter of the overlapping crises of addiction, homelessness, and mental health in the region.
Initially under the law, both men and women could be sent to carceral settings for treatment if a bed in a Department of Mental Health or Department of Public Health facility wasn’t available.
But a lawsuit brought against the state by the ACLU, Prisoner’s Legal Services, and the Center for Public Representation challenged the practice. In the midst of the litigation, lawmakers changed the legislation in 2016 to prohibit sending women to carceral settings.
Currently, Prisoner’s Legal Services is challenging the remaining practice of sending men to treatment facilities in jails or correctional facilities.