U.S. First Circuit - The FindLaw 1st Circuit Court of Appeals News and Information Blog

ACLU Sues for Man to Get Addiction Treatment in Jail

Cold turkey works for some people, but not Zachary Smith.

He is a long-time addict, starting with opioid painkillers when he was a teenager. When his sister died of a heroin overdose, he got scared and serious about getting treatment.

That's why he is suing the Department of Corrections in Maine. They won't give him his prescription, and he's afraid he will die in jail. The ACLU is now fighting to get him addiction treatment.

Reduce Drug Use

Methadone and buprenorphine are standard treatments that have been shown to reduce drug use and criminal behavior. According to reports, however, most jails do not allow inmates to continue addiction medications while incarcerated.

Smith, 30, is challenging Maine's policy in federal court. He is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is pursuing similar cases in other states.

The lawsuit says withholding Smith's medication "will cause him physical and psychological suffering, will expose him to heightened risk for other serious medical conditions, and could trigger relapse into active addiction, potentially resulting in overdose and death."

He begins his sentence in September, but filed in July because he doesn't want to put himself in "serious harm's way." Emma Bond, a staff attoney for the ACLU, said they are seeking a preliminary injunction for an early hearing.

"Serious Harm's Way"

Smith is facing nine months' for assaulting his estranged father. It's not his first prison tour.

He previously spent five months in jail for stealing drugs. When he got out, he relapsed and sought treatment.

"If I did not get on buprenorphine I'd probably be dead," he said. That's what he's afraid of this time, too.

Maine, like many states plagued with opioid addiction, has a front-page problem with it. Last year, some 376 people there died from opioid use.

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