Group Of Civilly Committed Men Sues Mass. Alleging Gender Discrimination In ‘Section 35’ Law

March 14th, 2019
By Deborah Becker

A group of men is suing the state of Massachusetts over the law, known as “Section 35,” that allowed a judge to involuntarily commit each of them to addiction treatment.

The lawsuit filed by 10 men civilly committed to the Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center (MASAC), a minimum security prison in Plymouth, alleges that because the state no longer allows women to be involuntarily committed to prisons for addiction treatment, it should not do so for men, either. MASAC is overseen by the state Department of Correction.

The plaintiffs allege there is scant addiction treatment at MASAC, but widespread mistreatment. They say they are treated like inmates even though they haven’t committed any crimes.

“One of our plaintiffs recounts being found with a pouch of tobacco and being sent for days locked in a small cell with a video camera on him,” said Bonnie Tenneriello, an attorney with Prisoners’ Legal Services, the group that filed the suit on behalf of the men. “Some are on mental health watch, and what’s mental health watch? It’s solitary confinement. This is not an environment that is conducive to recovery.”

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