The New Jersey Department of Corrections is using a new approach to try and educate inmates about medication to treat opioid use disorder.

They’re getting the message on TV.

Tony Tamburello, the associate director of psychiatry for Rutgers University Correctional Healthcare and a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, said the problem is while buprenorphine and methadone are effective medications to help users break the habit, many Garden State prisoners never enroll in a treatment program while they’re incarcerated.

For that reason, he said a short video was produced in association with the state Department of Corrections to help spread the word among inmates that help is available.

Watch the video in your cell

“We have it up on YouTube right now and we also have distributed a link to our potential patients within the DOC,” he said.

He said prisoners can watch the video on inmate TV on their JPAY players, small tablet computers that incarcerated individuals can purchase while they’re behind bars.

‘There’s public information that is put on this closed circuit television on an inmate channel that they can access in their cells.”

Prison guard with keys walking outside cell
fergregory ThinkStock

The video is short: less than 2 minutes.

“The goal of the video is to generate buzz, is to have people talking about it, maybe they might start talking to peers that are already taking the treatment,” said Tamburello.

Get to a better place

He added the idea is ultimately to get people to a better place so they can return to their community and lead productive lives.

Tamburello stressed this is important because “medications for opioid use disorder have been proven to reduce many of these negative health outcomes including death that have been observed in the community.”

He pointed out that many people serving time behind bars are familiar with this problem.

“If you have an opioid use disorder, the more severe your opioid use disorder is, the more likely you are to be involved in the criminal justice system,” he said.

He said most if not all inmates have probably heard about different treatment programs but in many cases “they have concerns about stigma, they may come from a community where accepting treatment for problems like this is discouraged.”

In addition to the video, Tamburello said inmates have received email blasts about treatment services on their JPAY players, and there are treatment flyers posted at different locations in the prisons.

He said this is the first time in the U.S. a state Department of Corrections has used a video to encourage inmates to get opioid treatment.

You can watch the video here.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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