Joseph Longley

  • Hosted by American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project
  • Sponsored by Anonymous
  • Service location Washington, District of Columbia
  • Law school Harvard Law School
  • Issue area Opioid Epidemic, Prisoners' Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2019
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Expanded access to necessary medical care for incarcerated people with opioid use disorder through innovative litigation, advocacy, and training.

At least a quarter of America’s prison population suffers from opioid use disorder and twenty-four percent of people who are addicted to heroin pass through America’s jails and prisons each year. Yet most jails and prisons have an outright ban on medication for addiction treatment (MAT), the medically approved way to treat people with opioid use disorder through a combination of counseling and the FDA approved medications methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. The consequences of such inadequate medical care are deadly—one study found that in the first two weeks after release from prison, an incarcerated person’s risk of dying from a heroin overdose is forty times as high as the general population. But providing MAT saves lives—making it seven times less likely that a recently incarcerated individual will die of an overdose.

Joseph is from rural Ohio, which has been severely impacted by the opioid epidemic. Joseph spent the summer after his first year of law school in Cincinnati, Ohio working with incarcerated people, where he saw firsthand the toll that the opioid epidemic has taken on vulnerable communities. Joseph envisions a world where people suffering from any addiction are able to get the treatment they need and live whole lives, free from stigma.

Fellowship Highlights

Throughout his Fellowship, Joseph filed cases against jails and prisons in Illinois, New Mexico, and New York for failure to provide MAT for incarcerated people with opioid use disorder. The litigation in Illinois resulted in his client being the first non-pregnant person in the DuPage County Jail to receive methadone in five years and also sparked an expansion of the Jail’s methadone policy. He also published a report giving an overview of MAT-in-corrections policies throughout the country and providing a roadmap for policy change. Joseph worked on legislative and policy advocacy efforts alongside ACLU affiliates across the country to change prison and jail policies on MAT, as well as working on COVID-19 related litigation in jails and immigration detention facilities.

Next Steps

After his Fellowship, Joseph will clerk for Judge Roy McLeese of the D.C. Court of Appeals.


Granting Emergency Request, Federal Court Blocks Jail from Denying Life-Sustaining Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder

Opinion: California prisons must provide inmates addiction treatment

Pandemic Lawyering: A Year in Review

‘We shouldn’t even have to have this conversation’: Woman recovering from opioid addiction sues to get methadone treatment in DuPage County Jail

As Overdoses Spike During Coronavirus, Treating Addiction in Prisons and Jails is a Matter of Life and Death

Supporting Inmates After They are Released

Chest to Chest: Inmates Are “Sitting Ducks” Waiting for COVID-19

How America’s prisons and jails perpetuate the opioid epidemic

Overdoses are on the rise. Is it time to provide medication assisted treatment in NC prisons?

Editorial: Helping jail inmates kick an opioid addiction helps us all

Exclusive: ACLU Sues NY County Over Methadone Access in Prison

How to Save Lives in Jail During the Opioid Crisis

Inmate sues to ensure methadone in prison

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