Substance abusers arrested in areas served by Dorchester Municipal Court will get a chance to enter a treatment program that, if they get through, would mean their charges would be struck without being put on their records.
The pilot diversion program, which is aimed at "low level" users, not traffickers, is a joint effort by the Suffolk County District Attorney's office, Boston Police, the court and the Gavin Foundation - which will fund the community-base three-to-six month treatment program. In a statement, DA Dan Conley said:
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’ll assess that person for substance dependence or addiction. If the person meets some basic criteria, they won’t make an arrest. Instead, they’ll issue a summons for that person to appear in court. In many cases, Boston Police already opt to issue summonses instead of making arrests, but Road to Recovery summonses will be for the very next day instead of several weeks later, allowing us to strike while the iron is hot and there’s still an incentive to seek treatment.
Defendants who complete their treatment plans, which will include everything from detox to counseling, will have their possession charge ripped up before it gets on their record. If they don't complete their treatment, though, they'll then face court action.
According to the DA's office, more than 70% of the low-level drug-possession charges it handles are continued without a finding, dismissed outright or result in the people charged being placed on pre-trial probation. None of these involve convictions - but also not any treatment
As a result, they don’t address the underlying issue or divert defendants from further contact with the criminal justice system – they merely defer it until the next case.
The diversion program begins Jan. 2.