In a move hailed as a success for proponents of criminal justice reform, one Massachusetts city, Worcester, has announced that it will give non-violent drug users a choice between serving their sentence in jail or entering a drug treatment program. Let’s take a closer look at the impetus behind the program and how it will work.
The New Program
Called Worcester’s “Buyer Diversion Treatment Alternative” (BDTA), it allows only people who were caught buying or using drugs without violent criminal records to opt into a rehabilitation program instead of serving time in jail. Participants in the program must complete their treatment or face serving time behind bars anyway.
The state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, Worcester Police Department, and Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.’s office are supporting and facilitating the program. Spectrum Health Systems will provide drug addiction services for the program. Furthermore, a $99,000 state grant has been set aside for police to hire a case manager who will serve as a liaison between law enforcement and participant treatment centers.
People arrested for manufacturing or selling drugs are not eligible for the program, as their actions endanger the lives of others.
BDTA is intended to rehabilitate addiction drug users so that they do not become repeat offenders or die from drug overdose. Lawmakers hope to see a reduction in the state’s opioid crisis, which is as pervasive a problem here as it is across the country. Between 2012 and 2016, 268 Worcester residents overdosed on opioids.
“This initiative will aid our ongoing efforts to help those suffering from the disease of addiction get into treatment, while at the same time allowing police to continue to work to arrest the dealers who are bringing the poison into our communities,” Early Jr. said.
Experts also applaud the fact that this program should free up prosecution resources so that they can focus on dangerous criminal activity.
Republican Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, who helped announce this program, stated: “If we can perfect this model here in Worcester, we’ll take it to other communities across the commonwealth.”
This program — and the fact that it had supporters from both sides of the political aisle — signals a progressive shift in how drug addiction and criminality are viewed in our state. We hope other cities and counties will adopt similar methods in the near future.
If you are facing nonviolent drug charges and are interested in pursuing alternative sentencing options, contact Thomas Whitney Attorney at Law today at (413) 256-6234. We’ll discuss your charges and develop a criminal defense strategy that addresses your needs.