Inmates Banned from Receiving Addiction Treatment
Stephanie DiPierro was sentenced to a federal prison after pleading guilty last fall to theft of public funds. DiPierro, 38, has been receiving daily doses of Methadone from a clinic since 2005. Now that she is heading to prison and will be unable to continue her scheduled addiction treatment, she fears what may happen upon her release.
Methadone is a type of Opioid that has been prescribed for years to control the cravings and symptoms of withdrawal for people recovering from Opioid addiction. In many prisons, however, prescribing or taking Methadone is banned for all inmates, except pregnant women. Depending on the county and state, men and women entering prison may be able to receive medications like Methadone, Naltrexone, or Buprenorphine to help their transition, but must stop once they are officially inside. The issue is that recovery is a long-term process and stopping treatment abruptly could create even greater issues down the line.
Increased Risk of Overdose
Prison inmates who suffer from addiction–an estimated 40 percent of the prison system–are at a higher risk of overdose upon release because they lose their tolerance for Opioids while incarcerated. Combined with pent-up cravings, they are much more likely to suffer an overdose upon their release. DiPierro, who first became addicted as a teenager after her mother’s death, is scared of what will happen to her after a year without Methadone.
Fighting for Recovery
The lawsuit argues the right of diagnosed inmates to receive legal medication. Not doing so violates the Eighth Amendment, which bans cruel and unusual punishment. The suit also argues that by denying treatment for a diagnosable condition, the Bureau of Prisons is violating the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which stops federal agencies from discriminating against people with disabilities.
In the crux of an Opioid crisis, allowing people to seek treatment while incarcerated could help lower the number of deaths each year from Opioids.
Recovery isn’t overnight. It is an ongoing process that many experience throughout their lives. Cutting someone off as they are just beginning could stop them from ever seeking treatment again. This case will no doubt see national attention as it takes on our entire federal prison system.