Essex County Sheriff proposes detox unit for inmate drug users

July 18, 2015
Sheriff Frank G. Cousins Jr. in Essex County wants to add a 42-bed detox unit to one of Massachusetts' largest jails, the Middleton House of Corrections. The unit, which would serve inmates who are facing charges for nonviolent offenses and have not been convicted and sentenced, would be the first such unit based at a jail in New England, Cousins said. He hopes drug users who finish the 28-day program will be able to demonstrate their sobriety to a judge and get probation instead of jail time. Cousins has yet to secure grant funding, but hopes to do so with the help of officials in the state's Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. A spokesman for that office said that officials are studying the proposal. Cousins' project, which would be housed in a now-vacant part of the jail, is expected to cost about $2 million annually. He said he hopes to eventually roll the expense into the facility's overall budget. Bail-reform advocates would rather see the $2-million annual expenditure for the unit go into creating a program that detains drug addicts before trial in community detox beds, where they say successful rehabilitation is more likely.