Massachusetts Incarcerates Men in the Name of Drug Treatment—Now They’re Suing

March 20, 2019
By Sessi Kuwabara Blanchard

A 34-year-old Massachusetts man thought he was going to the Men’s Addiction Treatment Center (MATC), a facility where he had received treatment in the past, for his benzodiazepine and opioid use. Instead, he arrived at a state prison in the middle of a forest near the Massachusetts cape.

There, he was allegedly refused access to Suboxone, a medication used to treat opioid use disorder that had been prescribed to him by a doctor. He began detoxing cold turkey, he says, in a room that reeked of urine and feces.

This man, known only to Filter as “John Doe 4,” is not alone in his traumatic experiences at the prison. He is one of 10 men currently being held in a facility within a Massachusetts state prison without criminal convictions—or even charges. It wasn’t an arrest that landed them in Massachusetts Correctional Institution (MCI) Plymouth. Instead, it was overcrowding at Massachusetts drug treatment facilities.

The men, all identified as John Doe and numbered one through 10, each have alcohol or substance use disorders (SUD) and were ordered by a court to be involuntarily committed to a treatment program after the court was petitioned to do so by their parents or another party, such as a police officer (and sometimes even by the person with SUD themselves).

In a lawsuit filed on March 14 by Prisoners’ Legal Services (PLS), a nonprofit organization, these 10 anonymous plaintiffs “co-housed” at the Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center (MASAC) at MCI Plymouth are now suing state officials for alleged abuse, neglect and failure to even be provided proper SUD treatment.

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