Some say Sheriff Nick Cocchi’s approach to addiction treatment is among the best in Massachusetts — but some say jail is the wrong place for recovery

July 13th, 2019
By Shira Schoenberg 

James Felchner has spent time in jail — and he says the facility where he’s getting addiction treatment doesn’t feel much different.

“You go outside, you got barbed wire. You’re in numbered cells,” Felchner said. “We get a few extra privileges compared to a jail, but we’re still in a jail.”

The Hampden County Correctional Center in Ludlow is home to about 900 inmates convicted of crimes or awaiting trial. But it’s also home to Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi’s Stonybrook Stabilization and Treatment Center — a facility that opened last year, and where Felchner has spent the last month.

There is growing consensus among addiction specialists that substance use disorder is an illness, not a crime — and that treatment should be delivered in a health facility, not a jail.

“Our opposition is really to incarcerating anyone in any prison based on a disease,” said Bonnie Tenneriello, staff attorney at Prisoners’ Legal Services.

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