Incarcerated and Addicted: A Brighter Future?

A ruling for a Massachusetts county jail could change the landscape of opioid treatment in prisons across the United States.

Geoffrey Pesce filed a lawsuit against the Essex County sheriff and the superintendent of the county jail in Massachusetts because he would not be able to receive methadone while in jail. Pesce long struggled with opioid misuse, but finally found that methadone treatment kept him clean because methadone treated his opioid withdrawal symptoms and relieved his drug cravings. Without being able to take methadone in the correctional center, Pesce would be forced to undergo severely painful withdrawal symptoms and could risk relapsing after being released.

A survey conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that nearly 63% of people in jail are drug dependent. Furthermore, the American Journal of Public Health found that inmates were 40 times more likely to die of an opioid overdose than an average citizen. These startling statistics show the gravity of this case.

The head of the Essex Correctional Institute, however, is concerned about methadone then circulating around the inmates. But despite this concern, U.S. District Judge Denise Casper issued a preliminary injunction allowing Pesce to receive his medication in jail. This ruling opens doors for more humane treatment of people who are opioid dependent and could thoroughly change the landscape of opioid treatment in the United States.


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