Suffolk Sheriff Tompkins proposes to convert empty detention center into temporary housing for people living in tents by Mass. and Cass
September 25, 2021
The Boston Globe
By Shirley Leung
What is more humane, allowing the squalor and rampant drug use at Boston’s Mass. and Cass street encampment to continue, or relocating some people living there into a former detention center where they can receive drug treatment and mental health counseling whether they want to or not?
To Suffolk Sheriff Steve Tompkins, the answer is obvious. He spent the summer watching tents pop up outside the South Bay House of Correction on the corner of Bradston and Atkinson streets. Tompkins says several empty floors in an adjacent building ― once used to hold ICE detainees ― could be converted into a treatment center with dorm-style accommodations featuring common areas with sofas and other comforts. Under his plan, up to 100 people could stay there for as long as 90 days.
“We would create an environment so you don’t feel like you’re in a prison,” said Tompkins.
But make no mistake, he is talking about housing and treating people against their will. Tompkins is leaving it up to Boston police to decide who should be picked up, and to Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins on who should be prosecuted. But whoever gets to go to this treatment center has to come through the criminal justice system.
Prisoner advocates have sued to stop jail-based, involuntary treatment programs such as the one Hampden County’s Cocchi operates. They argue that health care providers should be delivering such services.