By Shannon McBain ’16
Merrimack professor Frank G. Cousins announced he is stepping down as Essex County Sheriff after 20 years in office. While his term as sheriff is winding down, his work fighting the opiate problem in Essex County is still a priority for Cousins.
As sheriff, Cousins oversees the county correctional facilities and he said the problem of overcrowding at the jails has become exacerbated by the increase in numbers of opiate users finding themselves in trouble with the law. He said 85 to 90 percent of the prison population has issues with drug and other substance abuse.
To help fight the problem, Cousins proposed the idea of having a detoxification unit dedicated to helping those who commit nonviolent crimes to support their habit. He said it opened Dec. 7, 2015. The referral process for this detox program is decided through the district court system.
The benefits of this detoxification unit allows these individuals to have a 28-day treatment program to avoid being incarcerated. This allows the potential for drug abusers to acquire help in recovering from drug addiction and allows prisons to eventually become less crowded.
“The Detoxification Unit is a groundbreaking,” according to Cousins said.
On top of being a well-known, respected and hardworking sheriff of 20 years, Frank Cousins is also a professor here at Merrimack College. Cousins teachers a few courses in the criminal justice department.