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Articles by JB Nicholas

Drug Treatment Is Reaching More Prisons and Jails

Recent legal victories have spurred counties and states to provide medication-assisted treatment to prisoners struggling with substance use.

by JB Nicholas, The Appeal, a nonprofit criminal justice news site

Her father sold her drugs. Her sister was strung out. Friends died around her. 

“I shouldn’t have lived,” Brenda Smith, 35, testified in a Maine courtroom in February. “I have had some pretty close people, like close to me, die of a drug overdose.”

But Smith did live, thanks in part to a drug called buprenorphine, better known by its brand name, Suboxone. Along with therapy, she said, it has helped keep her clean since 2009. “It just makes me feel normal,” Smith testified. “Like when I was 17, before I started using drugs.”

That’s why she was determined not to go off it when was she was sentenced in 2018 to 40 days in the Aroostook County jail in northern Maine for swiping $40 cash from a Walmart self-checkout.

From a previous stay in jail, Smith knew that going back meant discontinuing buprenorphine, effectively forcing her to detox from it, increasing her risk of relapse and death from overdose after her release. So before her sentence was scheduled to ...