Letters: We can’t incarcerate our way to recovery


October 18, 2019
The Boston Globe

Elizabeth Matos: “If our Commonwealth has learned anything from lessons of the past, and if its elected officials truly care about addressing the havoc wreaked on our communities, economies, and schools by substance use, then we will get serious about treating this disease by following the advice of the overwhelming majority of medical professionals across the state and the nation. We cannot just incarcerate our way out of this again.”

Dr. Elizabeth Davis: “It is widely accepted in medicine that low-barrier methods of delivering treatment for substance use disorder are most successful. By meeting patients “where they are” in their recovery, providers can build trust. Patients then call on that trust before they feel they can risk abandoning the substances that have helped them cope with painful emotions. Indeed, for many patients, these substances, which cause permanent neurological changes, have become necessary for them to feel somewhat “normal” emotionally and physically.

Trauma is prevalent, and the shame associated with trauma causes people to hide and avoid treatment. Imprisoning individuals recapitulates shame and becomes counterproductive to engaging people in the process of recovery.

Regardless of which treatments may be offered in jail, individuals are set up for failure. We should be investing more in health systems, not prisons, for individuals with substance use disorder.”

Dr. Marco Tori: “No other chronic disease would lead to handcuffing and jailing a person for treatment. There is no role for so-called therapeutic punishment in treating addiction. In fact, we have good evidence that incarceration settings are not effective for treatment of substance use disorder, nor are they the standard of care.

The Commonwealth must create more beds for substance use disorder treatment across Massachusetts in specialized care facilities. Without investing in treatment infrastructure, prison beds will continue to masquerade as treatment beds.”

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