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Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 123, Section 35 permits the courts to involuntarily commit someone whose alcohol or drug creates “a likelihood of serious harm” to themselves or others. The law has provided that if there are no treatment beds available for women committed under that section, they may be sent to prison at MCI Framingham.

On January 25, 2016, Governor Baker approved “An Act Relative to Civil Commitments for Alcohol and Substance Use Disorders.” Pursuant to Chapter 8 of the Acts of 2016, the courts can no longer send women to prison if they are committed under Section 35. The new law provides that if no treatment beds are available, women will be sent to “a secure facility for women approved by the department of public health or the department of mental health,” and not to prison.

Governor Baker said “This is a great day for women who have been seeking help dealing with substance disorders.”

In addition, last year the Trial Court approved new Uniform Rules for Civil Commitment Proceedings for Alcohol and Substance Abuse G.L. c. 123, s.35, which will become effective February 1, 2016.

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