Thursday, May 15, 2008

Whatever you do, don't ask for help

Digby is all over this at the international level with a column about the case of the Italian Tourist who fell into immigration limbo and was imprisoned and then deported. But did you know that it happens to American citizens, convicted of no crimes, as well?

Tina Wambolt knew she needed help battling her alcoholism. What she didn't need were strip searches and a cell in the Framingham women's prison.

Wambolt, 33, of Ashby, fell through a crack in the Massachusetts legal system, into a gap that routinely sends women with serious alcohol or substance abuse problems to the women's state prison when no beds are available in treatment facilities.

A woman identified in state Department of Public Health documents as Debra P. entered MCI-Framingham as a civil commitment from the Cambridge District Court on July 18 last year. According to Department of Public Health records, she was sent to prison because there were no open beds in New Bedford. She spent 15 days at MCI-Framingham before being transferred to the center.

Trina P. did not even see the New Bedford facility. When she was committed on Sept. 27 last year, she, too, was sent to MCI-Framingham because of a lack of bed space. Department of Public Health records show she was released from the prison nearly a month later, on Oct. 24, when her commitment expired, having received none of the benefits offered at the New Bedford center.