A federal judge ordered the state Department of Correction to conduct psychological evaluations of two men who have been declared sexually dangerous in order to determine whether to provide pharmaceutical treatments as part of their rehabilitation.
In a 115-page ruling last week, US District Court Chief Judge Patti B. Saris said that the department was violating its own treatment plan for the rehabilitation of people deemed sexually dangerous, in violation of state law and their constitutional rights. The men, Jeffrey Healey and Edward Given, had maintained that the medications could help them control deviant sexual impulses.
“Plaintiffs have proven that the DOC is not committed to providing a meaningful pharmacological component to the sex offender treatment program,” Saris said in the ruling.
John Swomley, a Boston-based lawyer who represented Healey and Given welcomed the ruling on Thursday, saying it could help toward their rehabilitation and eventual release from state custody.
“They should have the opportunity to see whether pharmacology works for them, and if it does they should have the right to petition to be released,” Swomley said.
The chief judge also found that the Department of Correction failed to provide a functioning community access program for the two men, which would also be part of their rehabilitation.
“The Court orders the DOC to follow the [treatment plan] in all material respects,” the judge said, finding that her order is “necessary and in the public interest because of the evidence of ongoing violations.”
The Department of Correction said in a statement that it is “aware of the court’s decision and is reviewing the case to determine our next steps.”
Healey and Given are being held at the Nemansket Correctional Center in Bridgewater under state civil laws allowing for their incarceration if they are deemed sexually dangerous.
Both men have been declared sexually dangerous for their past crimes, though they completed their sentences. Healey has been in prison for most of his life, and was 17 years old in 1966 when he was first convicted of indecent assault and battery on a person under 14.
Given has been convicted multiple times beginning as early as 1983 for crimes including indecent assault and battery on a mentally retarded person, and unnatural rape of a child. He has been held under the state’s civil laws since 2001.
Under the sexually dangerous person laws, a sex offender can petition for his or her release after proving that they have been rehabilitated. Given and Healey argued that the Department of Correction was obstructing their efforts by not following a treatment plan that was adopted as a result of litigation in federal court in 1999.
Prisoner advocates said the treatment plan was meant to ensure the rehabilitation of sex offenders, which was the purpose of detaining them under the sexually dangerous person laws.
“The only justification for keeping someone at these facilities is that they’ve got this type of disorder that makes them sexually dangerous,” said James Pingeon, of Prisoners Legal Services, a Massachusetts inmate advocacy group. “If there is a medically appropriate treatment, they should get it.”