Franklin County House of Correction welcoming women to benefit from treatment program

  • Franklin County Jail and House of Corrections. RECORDER STAFF/ANDY CASTILLO ANDY CASTILLO

Recorder Staff
Published: 1/25/2018 7:26:09 PM

GREENFIELD — At an Opioid Task Force forum in June, former inmates spoke about how the recovery services at the Franklin House of Correction helped them to get on the right track. They came up to the microphone and shared their stories, while Franklin County Sheriff Christopher Donelan, a co-chair of the task force, sat before them, listening to their successes.

Yet something was off. There were no women offering positive testimonials.

Since 2014, local female inmates have gone to the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center in Chicopee, where they did not get the same access to addiction treatment as the male inmates who get to stay in Greenfield.

“Sitting there, I couldn’t figure out what to do about it,” Donelan said.

About six months later, Donelan has announced a shift in the House of Correction culture: Starting Feb. 1, female inmates will be at the Elm Street facility.

This means 22 Franklin County women, who are currently in Chicopee, will not only serve their time locally, but they will also have access to the same addiction treatment model the Franklin House of Correction has been pioneering for the state. The women will be a part of this program on a need and desired basis.

The House of Correction has space for these 22 women because of a change in the number of inmates at the facility. Until this year, the jail held more federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees. As a part of a budget consideration, it now holds fewer people, Donelan said.

Donelan’s facility has led the way for giving inmates medically assisted treatment, like with Vivitrol, under the guidance of local opioid expert Dr. Ruth Potee. The program is administered by the facility’s director of inmate programs, Ed Hayes.

The program received a $100,000 grant from the state in August.

“We collectively feel great about having parity about what we offer to the men and the women,” Hayes said about now being able to offer the treatment programs to women.

Donelan said this will make the Franklin County House of Correction the first in the state to offer such treatment to women.

The often cited goal for offering the treatment is when someone becomes an inmate, their access to either their medication or drugs that they may have been using before is now cut off. With opioid addiction, quitting “cold turkey” is not a viable option. With the ability to access treatment while serving time, an individual may have a better chance of finding success when they are released, Donelan said.

“It’s a very relevant program that should have a huge impact for the quality of life of anybody who participates in it,” Donelan said.

Opioid Task Force co-founder and Franklin County Register of Probate John Merrigan said this could also decrease the numbers of people coming back into the courts and the jail.

“There will be an impact on the recidivism in Franklin County and particularly within the female population,” Merrigan said.

It’s been a long time coming for Merrigan and the work of the task force, he said, as they have tried to figure out how to make sure people don’t end up in and out of the courts. Merrigan has been working on this issue in partnership with Donelan.

“His goal is to help that population get back on their feet and be a part of society,” Merrigan said about Donelan. “He wouldn’t be doing this if he didn’t have that as a bottom line objective to have a positive effect on their lives.”

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

413-772-0261, ext. 264


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