* 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.
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.