Sheriff proposes using jail to house people with addiction

BOSTON — A Massachusetts sheriff has proposed turning a part of his jail into a treatment center to help ease the drug use and homelessness in an area of Boston hit hard by the opioid epidemic.

Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins last week said he wants to house up to 100 people for up to 90 days in a vacant part of the Suffolk County House of Corrections’ South Bay campus.

The space, which previously housed federal immigration detainees, is located near the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, an area with a growing tent city that’s become the region’s most visible symbol of the opioid epidemic.

Business owners and resident groups applauded the proposal but substance abuse experts have voiced concerns about repurposing part of a jail for treatment.

Tompkins has stressed those in treatment would not comingle with jail inmates as the proposed facility is a stand-alone building.

Officials have been seeking ways to address the area as its worsened during the coronavirus pandemic.

A proposal earlier this month to convert a hotel in Revere into a transitional housing for some of the people living on the streets around Mass. and Cass was met with fierce resistance from that city’s mayor.

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