Pubdate: Thu, 07 Jul 2016
Source: Boston Herald (MA)
Copyright: 2016 The Boston Herald, Inc
Note: Prints only very short LTEs.
Author: Michael G. Bellotti
Note: Michael G. Bellotti is the sheriff of Norfolk County.


This week the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is 
scheduled to announce an increase in the number of prescriptions 
doctors can write for Suboxone from 100 to 275 a year. Congress is 
considering legislation that would make further increases in the 
availability of the drug, used to treat addictions to heroin and other opioids.

While the effectiveness of Suboxone (generically called 
buprenorphine) as a heroin treatment can be argued, there is no 
debate about it being a major problem for those of us who run 
correctional facilities. At the Norfolk County Correctional Center in 
Dedham, Suboxone is public enemy No. 1 when it comes to inmates 
trying to smuggle in contraband.

Suboxone is an opioid derivative. It provides a "high" for its users 
and is popular among incarcerated inmates because it is available as 
a sublingual film, similar to those breath freshener strips that look 
like cellophane and melt quickly on the tongue.

Inmates have tried just about every possible way to smuggle the 
Suboxone strips into the jail - from sewing them into the trousers 
dropped off for a court appearance, to hiding them beneath postage 
stamps on mail to dissolving them into paper then sent under the 
guise of being a kid's drawing.

When defendants appear in court knowing they are likely to be sent to 
jail afterward, they frequently try to secrete the drug on their 
bodies. While we catch some of it via searches during the intake 
process, a significant amount still manages to get through.

Inside the jail, inmates use Suboxone not only as a drug, but also as 
currency. A strip of dosages is worth as much as $100 and is used as 
barter for items in the inmate canteen or other drugs or other items 
delivered to associates outside the jail. We know this because we 
monitor inmates' phone communication with outside parties - other 
than attorneys - and we refer cases to the Norfolk County District 
Attorney's Office whenever possible.

Suboxone abuse forces our health services unit to devote time and 
resources to treating inmates high on the drug when the situations arise.

It is for others to decide whether the benefits of Suboxone outweigh 
its drawbacks, but I think it is important for the public to know 
about the significant problems it creates for correction officers and 
jail administrators who are trying to keep our jails safe, secure and drug-free.
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