Desperate families are locking up their opioid-addicted relatives for treatment. But the lifeline can be a nightmare.
On a clear night in the spring of 2017, Rob Ponte found himself in the middle of a forest in Massachusetts, chained at his wrists and ankles. He’d just spent hours in the back of a windowless van with three other men, and now he could see a construction trailer illuminated by bright orange floodlights and, in the distance, a clearing with a complex of cinder block buildings. Ponte, then a 30-year-old with a wan face and an athletic build left over from years of playing ice hockey, was taken by uniformed guards and brought into the trailer. He and the other men were told to strip. One by one, they were searched, photographed, and handed orange jumpsuits emblazoned with “D.O.C.” across the back. One of the guards ran through a list of questions: “Are you a member of a gang? Have you ever been incarcerated before?” It was then that Ponte realized he was being locked up.