By Joshua Solomon
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.