Judge troubled by allegations from civilly committed addicts

July 17th, 2017

July 14, 2017
The Boston Globe
By Maria Cramer

A Suffolk Superior Court judge Friday said he was troubled that state officials had placed men civilly committed for drug treatment in a facility for sex offenders and called on the officials to find a quick alternative.

“I don’t know why someone who is committed for the treatment of alcohol and drugs should be subjected to the trappings of prison life,” Judge Anthony M. Campo said during a nearly two-hour hearing in a civil courtroom. “I want to do the right thing. I want to get these people the proper treatment. I think the best thing is to get them to a therapeutic environment that is the most appropriate.”

Eleven men recently sued the state Department of Correction and other state agencies for placing them at the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater, a facility for sex offenders who are serving criminal sentences or have finished their sentences but remain committed because they have been deemed too dangerous for release.

In their complaint, filed by lawyers for Prisoners’ Legal Services, the men alleged they had not received treatment at the facility and had been mistreated. They said that they were harassed by sex offenders who put staples in their food and yelled obscenities at them.

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Worse than jail: Addicts civilly committed say DOC abused them and failed to treat them

July 17th, 2017

July 14, 2017
The Boston Globe
By Maria Cramer

Iraida Hernandez was desperate to find help for her son, a developmentally disabled 26-year-old long addicted to heroin.

Regular treatment centers weren’t enough — he walked out almost as soon as he walked in. Finally, Hernandez told him she wanted him to enter a program that would forbid him from leaving.

He did not resist, and in late May stood beside his mother when she asked a judge to have him held under a law that allows the civil commitment of someone whose addiction to alcohol or drugs poses a serious risk of harm.

It was a decision Hernandez came to regret.

Her son is now one of 11 men — all civilly committed to receive substance abuse treatment — suing the state for placing them at the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater, where the state’s most dangerous sex offenders are held in custody.

They are calling on a Suffolk Superior Court judge to release them immediately, contending their treatment has been cruel and that correction officials have wrongly insisted on keeping them for the full 90 days allowed by the law, known as Section 35.

They are also receiving little to no treatment, their civil complaint alleges.

“I put my son in a program so he could get better, not so he could be physically abused,” Hernandez said. “It’s a jail. The worst jail there is.”

Despondent and afraid, Hernandez’s son cut a vein in his arm, according to a civil complaint. Correction officers allegedly doused him with pepper spray to stop him, had him stitched up at an outside hospital, then put him in isolation for several days.

The men’s detention at the Bridgewater treatment center has been “traumatizing,” said Bonita Tenneriello, a lawyer at Prisoners’ Legal Services, which filed the complaint on the men’s behalf on July 7.

“It’s humiliating,” she said. “It’s stigmatizing.”

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Offering some solitary thoughts

July 10th, 2017

July 8, 2017
The Boston Globe
By Yvonne Abraham

We like to think of ourselves as enlightened here in Massachusetts. But when it comes to how we treat inmates in our jails and prisons, a bunch of other states have us beat — including Maine, led by governor Paul LePage, who has spoken longingly of bringing back the guillotine.

There, people have caught onto the fact that putting too many inmates in solitary confinement, especially for long periods, is bad for everybody.

It’s not good for the inmates. Isolation does permanent psychological damage, after even a few days, making even healthy people more likely to harm themselves or others. Putting mentally ill inmates in solitary exacerbates their illnesses.

It’s not good for the rest of us, either. Solitary costs two or three times what we pay to house other inmates. It denies inmates access to services they need to re-enter society, making them more likely to re-offend.

“You don’t put someone in the population if they pose a real threat,” said Bonnie Tenneriello, an attorney at Prisoners’ Legal Services. “But you don’t just lock them in a box, either. You give them programs, some human contact, some incentive to improve behavior and give them a pathway out.”

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Koutoujian and Walker: Compassionate release programs are good public policy

June 22nd, 2017

June 22, 2017
Metrowest Daily News
By Sheriff Peter Koutoujian and Leslie Walker

We believe it is time for Massachusetts to join the list of 45 states and the federal government who have instituted Extraordinary Medical Placement, Medical Parole or Compassionate Release programs.

Our incarcerated population is aging, and the graying of corrections has brought with it many logistical and budgetary challenges. The Department of Justice estimates that between 2009-2014 the number of inmates aged 55 and older doubled across the country.

While corrections professionals are trained to address a myriad of situations, treating terminally ill and permanently incapacitated individuals should not be one of them.

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Critics Say Massachusetts Should Ease Solitary Confinement

June 20th, 2017

June 20, 2017
By Steve LeBlanc and Bob Salsberg

Family members and others opposed to solitary confinement urged Massachusetts lawmakers Monday to restrict its use in jails and prisons.

Critics say the state has some of the nation’s harshest solitary confinement policies, allowing inmates to be placed in segregated disciplinary units for as long as 10 years.

Members of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee heard proposals Monday to limit solitary confinement to cases where an inmate poses a clear threat to the general prison population.

Other bills call for improving conditions in segregation units and requiring correctional facilities disclose more information about solitary confinement.

“You need to make sure someone poses a threat in order to keep them in segregation, and you have to give them a pathway out,” said Bonita Tenneriello, an attorney for Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts. “You have to give them some kind of programming to address their behavioral problems.”

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