Gov. Patrick calls for more humane treatment of substance abusers

prison bars jail
Gov. Deval Patrick wants a new less punitive approach to corrections. Credit: Jan Vargas, Flickr

Inmates will have an easier time moving into minimum security facilities, and Massachusetts will lose the dubious distinction of being the only state to hold civilly committed people in prison, Gov. Deval Patrick said Thursday, charting out a new less punitive approach to corrections.

“Treating those with substance abuse as prisoners is wrong. We must make the beds available for these individuals to receive proper treatment in proper settings,” Gov. Patrick told an audience at UMass Boston.

Following Boston Globe reporting on the 2009 death of Joshua Messier, who had paranoid schizophrenia and died after being restrained at Bridgewater State Hospital, Patrick preached the need for care in the treatment of the mentally ill.

“Unless it can be said with certainty that the inmate poses a serious and immediate physical danger to himself or his fellow inmates, he should not be tied down limb-by-limb in the 21st century here in Massachusetts,” Patrick said.

He said, “While on the subject of the use of restraints, let me be clear that we will also end – finally, completely and immediately – the use of restraints on pregnant inmates in labor. Current regulations prohibit this in state prisons, and today the Department of Corrections will issue emergency regulations extending that probation to all facilities, including houses of correction.”

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