Involuntary substance abuse programs at Mass. jails, prisons amount to ‘inhumane’ treatment, advocates say
Budget amendments target funding for Section 35 programs in Hampden County
The Berkshire Eagle
By Chris Van Buskirk, State House News Service
April 20, 2022
BOSTON — Involuntary treatment programs at jails and prisons in Massachusetts for people with substance use or alcohol disorders can create “inhumane” settings and lead to relapses post-release.
That was the message on Wednesday during a rally outside the Statehouse by critics of a section of state law that allows civil commitments for treatment.
Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Society of Addiction Medicine, and a health professional at Boston Medical Center are backing a pair of amendments from Rep. Ruth Balser, D-Newton, to the House’s fiscal 2023 budget that would remove funding for what are known as Section 35 programs run by the Hampden County Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Correction.
Balser’s first amendment would strike from the state budget roughly $2.5 million in funding for the Hampden County Sheriff’s Office to run a program in Western Massachusetts as well as $21.9 million for the Department of Correction to run the Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center, a facility in Plymouth that houses civilly committed people for a detoxification program of up to 90 days.
Her second amendment would require judges who civilly commit a person to a secure facility for treatment send them to one licensed or approved by the Department of Public Health or Department of Mental Health, but not a jail or other correctional facility. It also directs the health and human services secretary to ensure there are an adequate number of beds at DPH- or DMH-approved facilities.