Massachusetts must enact meaningful
drug reform for nonviolent offenders, focusing on education and
treatment instead of incarceration and punishment, according to a
report of the Massachusetts Bar Association's Drug Policy Task
Force released June 18 at the Statehouse. Mandatory minimum
sentencing reform and diversion to treatment could alone save the
state more than $25 million a year.
"This comprehensive report has
identified many ways in which our drug policy in Massachusetts
needs repair," said David W. White Jr., MBA past president and
chair of the MBA Drug Policy Task Force. "These are problems that
we cannot afford to ignore. We have made several recommendations
which will reduce the rate of crime, which will save the taxpayers
money and which will help rebuild families and communities."
Converting from criminal prosecution
of nonviolent drug offenders to treatment of their addictions is
the overall message of the report, "The Failure of the War on
Drugs: Charting a New Course for the Commonwealth."
A product of more than one year of
research and consideration, the report was created by a task force
of nearly three dozen prominent leaders, including lawyers, law
enforcement officials, the judiciary, mental health professionals,
physicians, social workers and public policy advocates.
The report's recommendations would
result in substantial savings. Specifically, diverting nonviolent
drug possession offenders to treatment instead of incarceration
could save $8 million in annual costs. An additional $17 million in
annual savings could be realized through mandatory minimum
sentencing reform, including parole after two-thirds of a sentence
is served in state prison and parole after one-half of a sentence
is served in county correctional facilities.
The task force has called on Gov.
Deval Patrick and the Legislature to implement recommendations for
both the short and long term.