Drug addicts are being sent to prison instead of rehab.
In 37 states, relatives can go to court as a final effort to get loved ones suffering from addiction committed for treatment.
“A family member, a doctor, and others can go to court and say, ‘We believe this person is a danger to themselves,’ a petition the court to have you committed for treatment, involuntarily. There’s a proceeding and then the court decides whether you should be committed,” Prisoner’ Legal Services of MA lawyer Bonnie Tenneriello said. “but unlike anywhere else, in Massachusetts, if there’s not enough room for you in the treatment center run by the Department of Health or Mental Health, you’re gonna get sent to prison.”
Patients who are sent to these facilities for “treatment” wear orange uniforms and badges that say “inmate,” even though they haven’t been charged with a crime, at the Massachusetts Alcohol & Substance Abuse Center (MASAC).
“When you’re in that kind of environment, the message is: You did something wrong and we’re punishing you,” Tenneriello said.
Patients say there is no significant counseling at the men-only MASAC and there has been at least one suicide reported. A group of 10 men recently sued the state of Massachusetts arguing that since women can’t be involuntarily committed to prison for substance abuse treatment, neither should men. The court approved this lawsuit as a class action.
“When people go to court and ask for a loved one to be committed for treatment, the last thing they expect is to go into prison,” Tenneriello said. “Have you really been given the tools to succeed when you’ve just been incarcerated for a month?”