Prescription drugs are getting abused more and more frequently. A police department in Massachusetts is taking an innovative approach to this increasing drug problem. The Glouchester Police Department is inviting people to the police station, no questions asked, in an effort to fast track people into treatment to help them kick the habit. People can turn over their drugs and paraphernalia to the police and not risk being charged with any crime. In addition, much of the cost of treatment is covered by insurance, grants and money recovered through forfeiture in drug criminal cases. The program started in June of 2015. Within a couple of months, 109 people had turned themselves in to take advantage of the program. Other police departments are considering similar programs.
This program seems to be an acknowledgment that addicts need treatment and that jail or prison will likely not provide the necessary treatment. Colorado has recently amended its laws related to drug possession, reworking the drug offenses to not only reduce the level of crime associated with each drug offense, but also the opportunity to avoid felony convictions under certain circumstances. Many of the new drug felonies have “wobbler” provisions, which means that a person may plead to a felony, but once you complete your sentence the felony “wobbles” down to a misdemeanor.
In addition, some jurisdictions have specialized courts to deal with drug offenders. These drug courts involve intense supervision, but also acknowledge that people will likely have relapses. When these relapses occur, there are intermediate sanctions imposed rather than immediately jumping to revocation of probation, which can then lead to jail or prison time. This is not to say that drug court is easier than regular court (and in reality it is not because the level of supervision is very intense). People are not generally sent to drug court for a first time offense as it is usually a last effort before sending a person to jail or prison.
Time will tell how successful the Glouchester Police Department’s new drug policy is, but people seem to be taking advantage of the opportunity.