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*** UPDATED x1 *** DuPage sheriff says end of cash bail would hurt his inmate addiction program, but he’s being sued over that program

Thursday, Feb 11, 2021

* Aurora Beacon-News

DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick worried about one component of a sweeping criminal justice reform bill that is set to make Illinois the first state to drop the cash bail system. […]

Mendrick is convinced this law will have “unintended consequences” that could hurt more than it helps, namely those inmates who, while awaiting court dates, take part in intensive rehabilitation and reformation programs to address the issues – mostly drugs and alcohol – that landed them in the system in the first place.

“People are not going to get off drugs on their own,” Mendrick said. “We have a captive audience here. We take advantage of that.”

Since taking office three years ago, Mendrick has formed an especially close partnership with JUST of DuPage, a nonprofit organization that tackles issues of alcoholism, mental illness, anger and lack of opportunity through a robust rehabilitation and reaffirmation program inside the jail.

Those with addiction issues make up 80% of his inmates, the sheriff said, and for many of them jail becomes their “one best chance” at dealing with the problems that landed them behind bars.

* ACLU

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Illinois, Legal Action Center, and the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center today filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit against the DuPage County Sheriff on behalf of Christine Finnigan to ensure she’s provided with her prescribed medication for addiction treatment (also known as MAT) while she is serving time on a February 2016 DUI.

DuPage County is alleged to have an unwritten policy that forces detainees to go through withdrawal, specifically refusing to confirm a plan for people facing imminent incarceration to be medically treated with methadone or another MAT medication known as buprenorphine. Other corrections facilities – including the nearby Cook County jail – provide these medications.

“I am horrified and afraid of going through detox while in jail,” said Ms. Finnigan. “I have gone through detox before without medication and know the pain and trauma. I nearly died. I just want to take the medication that has been prescribed for me.”

Ms. Finnigan was diagnosed with OUD in August 2019 and prescribed a daily methadone maintenance dose. This medical treatment is critical to her remaining alive. In 2016 she was charged with driving under the influence. She expects to serve 30 days in jail, starting February 25th.

“The opioid epidemic is ravaging our communities throughout the country, and jails and prisons are exacerbating the crisis by not allowing basic medication to treat opioid use disorder,” said Joey Longley, Equal Justice Works fellow at the ACLU’s National Prison Project. “Making sure that incarcerated people have access to Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) saves lives, with one study showing that it decreases mortality rates by as much as 74 percent. The tide is turning on this issue, and we look forward to the day that access to MAT is not up for debate.”

* From the motion for a preliminary injunction

OUD is a chronic brain disease that involves structural changes in the brain, particularly to the parts of the brain responsible for assessing and responding appropriately to risk and reward. It is characterized by compulsive use of opioids despite negative consequences. OUD and overdose deaths are a national health crisis. In Illinois, thousands of people die each year from opioid overdose, with more than 2,000 dying in 2019. […]

The risks of relapse, overdose, and death are even higher for people who are released from incarceration after disruption of their treatment with MAT.

*** UPDATE *** From the defendant’s motion to dismiss

Regarding the second step, here it cannot be said that Plaintiff will undergo any hardship absent a Court order. Defendants do not owe any duty to Plaintiff to provide her any treatment (or assurances thereof) prior to her incarceration. Even after she is incarcerated, we cannot know-in- advance the result of Plaintiff’s physical, or the attendant opinions of her medical providers for the care and treatment of her prospective OUD. There is not yet any “immediate and/or real” indication that Plaintiff would be harmed should the Court elect to set the matter of her potential course of treatment aside. … Thus, Plaintiffs’ constitutional argument does not pose an issue that is fit for judicial decision at the present time.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

18 Comments
  1. - gfalkes - Thursday, Feb 11, 21 @ 12:23 pm:

    This is a part of the shift from the criminal justice reform model reflected by the legislature and proponents of the ACLU advocates. Connect them to community drug treatment programs, release them from community sanctions, and let the law enforcement programs to right size their mission. I hope community members navigate this system, but the well is dry. Eliminate the financial incentives for bail, eliminate non law enforcement drug interventions instead of community based ones and let others figure it out.


  2. - charles in charge - Thursday, Feb 11, 21 @ 12:35 pm:

    Jail is not treatment. Never has been, never will be. Especially when a sheriff, of all people, is allowed to deny someone life-saving medications because of their own prejudices.


  3. - DuPage Saint - Thursday, Feb 11, 21 @ 12:44 pm:

    I cannot believe it could possibly be legal to deny some in custody their legally prescribed medication. I could see giving a generic but not stopping medication. I would think a sentencing judge would order medications the judge must not know this


  4. - Allergic to BS - Thursday, Feb 11, 21 @ 12:46 pm:

    Absolutely, completely, and totally wrong. 100% nonsense. If he wants to espouse a “tough on crime” philosophy then he needs to put on his big boy pants and just come out and say it.


  5. - Flawed12 - Thursday, Feb 11, 21 @ 1:11 pm:

    Forced treatment in the criminal justice system is a flawed and failed model to treat behavioral health and non-violent human behavior. Asking the law enforcement to treat addiction is like asking a celibant person to teach sex ed. Forced or coerced treatment fails to address the reasons people chose drugs and alcohol. Stick to violent crime and invest in orgs more equipped to do address the social determinants of health like social workers, harm reductionist and behavioral health care teams.


  6. - Lincoln Lad - Thursday, Feb 11, 21 @ 1:18 pm:

    Mendrick: Jail is the “one best chance” at dealing with their problems…

    Really? We can’t support treatment without jail? Of course Mendrick has been fighting the justice reform bill aggressively and with some questionable claims.

    DuPage County should be leading on this… not be dragged into doing what’s right.


  7. - JoanP - Thursday, Feb 11, 21 @ 1:29 pm:

    @ DuPage Saint,

    Judges in DuPage (and I’m sure, elsewhere) like to “let the Sheriff run the jail”.

    I recall an incident a number of years ago in which the jail changed a defendant’s meds, causing her to become unfit to stand trial. They didn’t bother to check with anyone.


  8. - Mama - Thursday, Feb 11, 21 @ 1:40 pm:

    “DuPage County should be leading on this… not be dragged into doing what’s right. ”

    So… doing what is right is a bad thing?


  9. - Jocko - Thursday, Feb 11, 21 @ 1:45 pm:

    ==doing what is right is a bad thing?==

    It’s NOT right when Mendrick equates heroin withdrawal to smoking cessation.


  10. - Lincoln Lad - Thursday, Feb 11, 21 @ 1:50 pm:

    Mendrick is NOT doing the right thing, quite the opposite.


  11. - Dotnonymous - Thursday, Feb 11, 21 @ 1:53 pm:

    Jails and prisons are unhealthy places…inmates have nothing coming…but a release date back into your community.


  12. - Lincoln Lad - Thursday, Feb 11, 21 @ 1:53 pm:

    The county SHOULD lead on reform - not resist or argue against it.


  13. - Frank talks - Thursday, Feb 11, 21 @ 2:12 pm:

    Dupage County Board has twice now tried to force the issue of first voting to tell Gov to veto then next meeting voting to object to the Gov signing neither was successful. GOP has vowed to continue to bring it back every meeting. The GOP in dupage has decided this is their hill they will plant their flag on.

    Fear of “those people” from Cook County. They already used it in debate 3 weeks ago. “Those people from Cook County will come here to commit more crime if this bill passes” “There was a car jacking in Elmhurst that happened because this law was passed” Go watch the tape- dog whistles all over the place.


  14. - Candy Dogood - Thursday, Feb 11, 21 @ 2:13 pm:

    I look forward to a future where toxic masculinity and unreasonable enforcement if false virtues stops being confused with good or competent police work and public safety policy.

    Sheriff James Mendrick has no formal education or licensing that would suggest that he is a medical professional or a mental health professional that is capable of making medical decisions. He shouldn’t just be sued, he should be charged with an effort to practice medicine without a license.

    The organization he has partnered with, JUST of DuPage is a faith based organization that refers to their activities as a ministry.

    They are not representative of an appropriate drug treatment program, and inmates of a county jail are not there to be involuntary participants in someone’s specific view point on religion, no matter what the intent is. The organization does not appear to have any licensed medical professionals on their payroll.

    One does not solve addiction by forcing addicts in to withdraw and forcing them to go to church.

    Though I am prepared to look on the bright side, at least they’re not trying to burn anyone at the stake.


  15. - Dotnonymous - Thursday, Feb 11, 21 @ 2:27 pm:

    Take Jesus instead of taking dope…is one popular method used to treat Addiction…I wonder what Jesus would think of this intentionally cruel and medically ignorant use of forced religion…unlike many others I can not speak for Him.

    Candy Dogood said it better than me.


  16. - Lincoln Lad - Thursday, Feb 11, 21 @ 2:52 pm:

    Thanks Candy - well said and on point. Let’s not forget the Naperville Park District passing the resolution calling for the Gov’s veto. Yesterday refusing to yield to today….


  17. - walker - Thursday, Feb 11, 21 @ 3:35 pm:

    “”Candy Dogood said it better than me.”"

    That’s a keeper.


  18. - ArchPundit - Thursday, Feb 11, 21 @ 4:16 pm:

    ===Mendrick is convinced this law will have “unintended consequences” that could hurt more than it helps, namely those inmates who, while awaiting court dates, take part in intensive rehabilitation and reformation programs to address the issues – mostly drugs and alcohol – that landed them in the system in the first place.

    Rehab can be done elsewhere. Reformation isn’t appropriate for pre-trial detention since they have not been convicted of anything.

    Perhaps, we should work to get them into treatment before they wind up in jail.


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