fb-pixel Skip to main content

Getting a closer look at jail-based solution to Mass. and Cass crisis

The hallway with dormitory-style cells in Building 8 at the Suffolk County House of Correction, which Sheriff Steve Tompkins proposes to convert into a drug treatment center for those living near the intersection of Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

We should be addressing root causes, not looking to correctional settings

I am a physician with a background in public health, and I agree with Dr. Jody Rich, director of the Center for Health and Justice Transformation, that jail-based addiction programs are not a solution to the crisis at Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard (“A look inside sheriff’s plan for Mass. and Cass,” Shirley Leung, Page A1, Oct. 24). For example, one recent study reported that fentanyl-related overdoses are likely to be occurring at increasing frequency within correctional facilities.

Instead, how about a social movement to address the root causes of the opioid and homelessness crisis? Band-Aids are not the answer when our brothers and sisters are bleeding out. Instead of “dignified incarceration,” we need dignified housing, effective treatment, job training, education, and community support.


Finally, we must address the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness, addiction, and homelessness. As a practicing doctor who has bipolar disorder and takes lithium, I have empathy for my neighbors at Mass. and Cass who are struggling and marginalized. I hope the people of this city will come together and build what the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. called a “beloved community” of health and healing.

Dr. Philip Lederer

Jamaica Plain

The solution in the face of tent city homelessness should not merely address downstream consequences. Correcting upstream causes would be profoundly more permanent.

Not correcting root causes is like addressing a withering plant with a spray and ignoring the elements of the soil supporting its well-being, or throwing a hungry child a cracker and expecting the problem to be solved.

Addressing inequities requires a will to dig and a will to fix. It requires a moral society.

Ellen Schoenfeld-Beeks


Sheriff Tompkins should be lauded for being proactive

I applaud Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins for being proactive in addressing the ongoing crisis at Mass. and Cass, which so many other officials merely talk about. He is willing to at least do something that might help make an impact, by turning empty space at the South Bay House of Correction into an addiction treatment center, and unfortunately has been criticized for doing so.


I have worked in the field of addiction for 30 years, addressing substance use disorder and mental illness, and one never knows where, how, and from whom a moment can change people’s lives. Any and all options are valuable. As a recent retiree, I have offered to volunteer in any way I can.

It’s time for all the players to come together rather than opposing each other.

Susan Smith


The writer is a former program director and clinical director in addiction services at Bay Cove Human Services.

Reference to ‘dignified incarceration’ stops this reader in his tracks

My interest in Shirley Leung’s latest commentary about the Mass. and Cass crisis was stopped cold in the first sentence when she wrote of “dignified incarceration,” which is a perfect example of the kind of language George Orwell warned society of in his book “Nineteen Eighty-Four.”

Doublespeak disguises the nature of truth. Leung, who is sincere in her efforts to seek a solution to this crisis, has a blind spot in how she looks at the problem of substance use disorder and other mental health conditions that affect many living in the streets around Mass. and Cass. Treating these conditions like a crime, and incarcerating those who suffer from them — no matter how “dignified” that treatment is — continues to perpetuate the stigma that prevents society from effectively dealing with these issues.


Kevin Bowe

West Newbury