Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley announced Thursday the launch of a pilot program designed to provide treatment for non-violent drug offenders as opposed to prosecution and incarceration.
The program, called “Road to Recovery,” will launch in Dorchester on Jan. 2, Conley said at a press conference at the Devine Recovery Center in South Boston.
“Beginning next month, if members of the Boston Police find someone in simple possession of a controlled substance who presents no other apparent risk to public safety, they won’t make an arrest,” he said.
“Instead, they’ll issue a summons for that person to appear in court” the next day, not the typical wait of one month, Conley said, allowing the program to offer services faster than usual and providing an incentive to seek treatment.
Conley’s office is partnering with the Boston Police Department and the Gavin Foundation, a non-profit that provides substance abuse treatment.
Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans said his officers use a “compassionate approach” when dealing with drug offenders.
“We understand these kids don’t need the criminal justice system, they need care, they need help, because just locking them up is not the solution,” he said.
Evans said the program is a much-needed addition to the city’s current approach to the opioid crisis.
“All of us know what an uphill battle we face with the opioid addiction within our city,” he said. “I read these police reports every day and see these young kids constantly overdosing … and dying.”
John McGahan, the president of the Gavin Foundation, said his organization stands ready to assist those in need of treatment.
“We will work diligently with the Boston Police Department to try to identify these folks, get them into the appropriate level of care, and provide them the … services which they need,” he said. “We believe and have a philosophy that people do recover and can recover.”
The program fills gaps in courtroom practices, Conley said, addressing the underlying issue in drug convictions instead of just prosecuting or releasing those faced with drug charges.
Typically, those who are charged with drug possession are either placed on pre-trial probation or have their charges dismissed outright, he said.
Instead, those who participate in the pilot program will have the option of receiving treatment as opposed to being arraigned, Conley said.
“If a person accepts the offer and completes the three-to-six-month program successfully, then the criminal charge will never issue,” he said. “The participant can focus on getting clean and staying sober, instead of fighting the case or paying fines and fees.”Alyssa Meyers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ameyers_.