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Two Civilly Committed Massachusetts Men Win Partial Victory

by Ed Lyon

Massachusetts citizens Jeffrey Healey and Edward Given completed their prison terms and were civilly committed after being found to be sexually dangerous persons. They filed 42 USC § 1983 lawsuits to challenge the sex offender treatment program and confinement conditions at Bridgewater, Massachusetts' Nemansket Correctional Center (“NCC”).

They sought non-monetary equitable relief and urged that NCC was violating its Amended Management Plan (“AMP”), which was integrated into a consent decree by a court in a previous lawsuit. Specific complaints included a lack of psychopharmacological treatment, enclosed “cage” recreation and the Department of Corrections' failure to implement a community-access program required by state statute law and the AMP.

The court explored Massachusetts' civil commitment history from its 1947 inception to the present. It then evaluated the AMP, relevant court decrees, orders and statutes.

Applying the above to Healey's and Given's complaints, the court found the recreation “cage” constitutional, but the NCC was not compliant with the Amended Management Plan (requirements for a functioning community-access program in particular). The court called for evaluations by a qualified psychiatrist for pharmacological treatment if warranted and declaratory judgments for the correctional center’s failures for its AMP violations and failure to implement a functional community-access program.

See: Healey v. Murphy, et al., United States District Court (Mass.) Case No. 01-11099- PBS (2013); Given v. Murphy, et al., United States District Court (Mass.) Case No. 04-30177-PBS (2013)

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Related legal case

Healey v. Murphy, et al.