Sen. Eric P. Lesser today announced that the Executive Office of the Trial Court has committed to establishing a Drug Court in the City of Springfield in 2016.
Support for the new Drug Court came as a result of a concerted effort led by Sen. Lesser, the Pioneer Valley Project, and other local officials and community leaders, including the Springfield legislative delegation.
The commitment was communicated in writing by Chief Justice of the Trial Court Paula Carey and Trial Court Administrator Harry Spence.
“This new Drug Court will give our judges and law enforcement officers an important tool to provide the best possible treatment options to those struggling with substance abuse and addiction,” Sen. Lesser said. “Drug Courts also help save money by keeping more of our citizens out of prisons and reducing the chance that they will be arrested in the future.”
Drug Courts help address underlying issues of drug and alcohol addiction through intensive probation supervision, regular drug testing and various therapy options. They are estimated to produce cost savings ranging from $3,000 to $13,000 per person by reducing prison costs and revolving-door arrests.
“Until now the closest drug court was located in Greenfield,” Sen. Lesser said. “It’s important for those needing treatment to have local access to these essential services.”
Sen. Lesser’s efforts to secure a Drug Court in Springfield began in May, when he filed a budget amendment that sought $500,000 in funds for the court’s establishment. While the amendment was unsuccessful, Lesser later voted with the Senate to secure a $229,651 increase in funding for specialty courts, which includes drug courts.
Lesser also voted for a successful measure in the Legislature’s supplemental budget passed in late October, which allocated $300,000 to help Trial Courts identify gaps in the criminal justice system for individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders.
The announcement for the new Springfield Drug Court came after Sen. Lesser’s office met with Trial Court Administrator Harry Spence and Chief Justice of the Trial Court Paula Carey in late September, providing a letter of support from Sen. Lesser and the Western Massachusetts legislative delegation.
The Pioneer Valley Project, a Springfield-based community organizing group, helped arrange the meeting after spending months rallying community support for the new Springfield Drug Court. The group also presented letters of support from Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni and Hampden County Sheriff Michael J. Ashe, Jr.
“We are pleased and impressed with the level of community support and engagement around the founding of a Drug Court in Springfield,” Trial Court Administrator Harry Spence and Chief Justice of the Trial Court Paula Carey wrote in their letter to Sen. Lesser.
“We’re pleased that a drug court will be coming to Springfield, the largest city in Western Massachusetts,” Pioneer Valley Project director Tara Parrish said. “We know that incarceration does not address addiction. Treatment can. We want members of our community dealing with substance abuse and addiction to have the opportunity to heal and have continued access to employment opportunities. We’re excited to continue working together with our local leaders to bring the drug court to fruition.”
There are currently 22 adult and three juvenile Drug Courts across the Commonwealth. Currently, Greenfield is the only Western Massachusetts community with access to this specialized court.