New law offers women drug treatment instead of prison

The disgraceful practice of sending women who have been civilly committed for substance abuse disorders to the state prison in Framingham rather than a treatment facility is finally coming to an end.

“I’m sorry it took so long to make this happen,” said Gov. Charlie Baker at the State House bill signing on Monday.

Civil commitments typically last 90 days. They are used when a judge rules a person with a substance abuse disorder is a danger to themselves or others. Men with civil commitments are sent to Bridgewater State Hospital, while women until now have been sent to MCI-Framingham, the state’s only correctional facility for women.

Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said six women are currently civilly committed at MCI-Framingham. They will be transferred to new addiction treatment beds at the Taunton and Shattuck state hospitals. Overall, the state is spending $5.8 million to open 60 new addiction treatment beds for women at the two hospitals.

It’s unclear whether the new beds and the new law will bring an end to an ongoing class action lawsuit that alleges the state was exposing addicts who had not committed crimes to the dangers of prison without addressing their underlying health problems. The lawsuit was filed by three civil rights groups — the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, the Center for Public Representation, and Prisoners’ Legal Services.

Officials attending the bill-signing ceremony on Monday said the shift on civil commitments finally came about in large part because of a shift in attitudes in the wake of the opioid crisis. “As soon as it became a widespread situation affecting communities all across the Commonwealth, people from all economic backgrounds, really a very diverse group of people, it suddenly changed from a crime to a disease,” said Senate President Stanley Rosenberg. “It’s a societal attitude that has changed based, I think, in part on socioeconomic class and race lines.”

There’s still plenty of work to be done at MCI-Framingham. The prison is overcrowded. It houses state and county offenders as well as women awaiting trials. Approximately two-thirds of the inmates are there for nonviolent offenses, most of them involving drugs. Many of the inmates suffer from mental illness.

“The sad truth is that the state’s prisons are becoming de facto detox centers and mental health facilities of last resort,” wrote Renee Loth in a column last year that focused primarily on MCI-Framingham. “Left unsaid is what a poor match prisons are for that kind of work.”




The exodus from the Massachusetts Senate continues, as Sen. Benjamin Downing announces he will be leaving after his fifth term ends. (State House News)

Gov. Charlie Baker plans to put aside $5 million in his budget proposal to help the chronically unemployed. (WBUR) Baker’s budget plan will also propose a revamping of the reimbursement to district school systems for charter school students. (Boston Globe)

House Speaker Robert DeLeo tamps down any talk of a $15 an hour state minimum wage. (Boston Herald)


Amy Dain argues that municipalities shouldn’t go it alone in deploying information technology. (CommonWealth)

Springfield’s Chestnut Towers, built as a luxury high-rise in 1976, is now plagued by drug dealing and in desperate need of rehab. (MassLive)

Framingham’s Government Study Committee vowed to stay neutral in the latest push to ask voters to change from town to city government but promised to educate residents on the pros and cons of both options. (Metrowest Daily News)


More signs that Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s administration and Wynn Resorts are making nice. (Boston Globe)


A Texas grand jury which had been investigating allegations of misconduct against Planned Parenthood instead cleared the organization of wrongdoing and indicted anti-abortion advocates who secretly videotaped meetings with the health care provider. (New York Times)

Sen. Edward Markey is blocking President Obama’s nominee for head of the Food and Drug Administration over concerns about the agency’s approval process for opioid prescriptions, especially for children. (Associated Press)


The Boston Herald endorses Chris Christie in New Hampshire’s Republican presidential primary. The Globe gives its nod to John Kasich.

The Globe reports that the big promises being made by Donald Trump on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left would prove difficult to deliver.

Newton Mayor Setti Warren and Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund discuss whether a former mayor, Michael Bloomberg, could impact the presidential race by entering as a third party candidate. (Greater Boston)


Pricey new condos in Boston’s Seaport district are being flipped at big profits before anyone has even set foot in them. (Boston Globe)

A lawsuit by former Disney employees claims the entertainment giant illegally replaced them with foreign workers at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, under a federal visa program that is supposed to be used only for temporary workers. (New York Times)


At an emotional hearing in Southbridge, speakers split fairly evenly between support for a state takeover of the community’s schools and opposition to it. (Telegram & Gazette)

Nearly 86 percent of Massachusetts teachers were graded as “proficient” while nearly 10 percent were deemed “exemplary” in the third year of the state’s teacher evaluation system. Just 5 percent were scored as “need improvement” and “unsatisfactory.” (GateHouse News Service) A study of the District of Columbia’s teacher evaluation system finds student achievement improved when low-performing teachers are dismissed despite fears of turnover creating unsettled classrooms. (U.S. News & World Report)

Boston school superintendent Tommy Chang met yesterday with Boston Latin School students who are upset over the racial climate at the school. (Boston Globe) Mayor Marty Walsh, who last year panned the anti-Olympics effort as “10 people on Twitter,” takes flak for again dismissing the power of the tweet, this time for his own late-night tweet saying leadership is about taking action, not just tweeting, in response to the controversy over race issues at the school. (Boston Herald)

Students at Cape Cod Community College rallied to bring sports back to the two-year school after an absence of more than 20 years, saying the return would boost school spirit and enrollment. (Cape Cod Times)


Lahey Health prepares to open a primary care facility near Lowell General Hospital as competition between the two hospital systems intensifies. (The Sun)

The medical marijuana business in Massachusetts is off to a shaky start. (Boston Globe)

Science superstar Eric Lander sets off a stir with an essay on genome-editing technology. (STAT)

A new American Heart Association report says the symptoms a woman experiences while having a heart attack (nausea, shortness of breath) are very different from what men (chest pain) experience. (Time)


MBTA ridership: Is it flat, as the T oversight board says, or is it flying pretty high? The right numbers are hard to come by. (CommonWealth)

Seeing red: Delays on the Red Line plus a report on its overcrowding and massive infrastructure make for an ugly start to the week for riders of the T’s busiest transit line. (Boston Globe)

The Pioneer Institute says a little known perk is allowing T employees to pad their pensions using unused sick time, a practice that is costing the state $72 million. (Boston Herald)

A crowd of 50 to 60 people shows up in Lynn to rail against proposed MBTA fare hikes. (Salem News)

Berkshire County officials test the waters for an Uber-like service. (Berkshire Eagle)


The US Supreme Court upholds so-called demand response payments, which are fees paid to big electricity customers to reduce their usage during peak demand periods. (CommonWealth)

An explosion and fire at the MWRA’s Nut Island sewage treatment facility injured five people and triggered a response from Quincy’s hazardous material team as a foul odor hung over the city’s Hough’s Neck neighborhood. (Patriot Ledger)

Ken Driscoll of Solect Energy urges lawmakers to approve legislation lifting the cap on solar net metering. (CommonWealth)

A Florida company is seeking to site a 3,000-acre solar farm in Rehoboth. (Herald News)


President Obama bans solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons. (Washington Post)

Andover attorney R. David Cohen is convicted of laundering more than $1 million in fraudulently obtained IRS refund checks. (Eagle-Tribune)

Yes, it’s come to this: A man in Dorchester is shot in the stomach in a standoff over a parking space. (Boston Herald)

James Kater, convicted after four trials for the 1978 murder of 15-year-old Mary-Lou Arruda, who was found strangled and tied to a tree in Freetown State Forest, died in prison on Saturday. (The Enterprise)

The number of children who are abused and neglected rose 3 percent in the latest reporting period, including nearly 1,600 who died, according to new federal data. (Associated Press)


Dan Kennedy explains why all the handwringing over the Globe delivery fiasco may be so much whistling past the graveyard. (WGBH)