Drug court provides alternative for defendants suffering from opiate addiction

March 23, 2015
Judge Mary Hogan Sullivan, a Dedham District Court judge, is the director of specialty courts in Massachusetts, overseeing programs such as drug court. Drug court is intended to target substance abuse issues that may be the underlying causes of criminal behavior in some defendants. The program includes intense probation, mandatory treatment and regular drug testing, with a judge monitoring all progress. Treatment coordinators and probation officers provide clinical assessments, track treatment placements and identify other services a defendant may need. The program, which is meant to provide an alternative to incarceration, began in Florida in the early 1990s and expanded nationally. Massachusetts launched its drug court in 1995. From Jan. 1, 2013 to Feb. 28 of this year, 1,328 defendants appeared in the 17 drug courts throughout Massachusetts. Drug court is generally intended for defendants with a high need for services who are deemed a high risk to re-offend. Drug courts that receive federal grant funding cannot take defendants charged with violent offenses. Sullivan admits the program isn't for everyone and is just one part of addressing the ongoing opioid addiction crisis.