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Mass. Lawyers Push For Changes To Drug Offender Sentencing

The Massachusetts Bar Association says the state’s legal system for handling non-violent drug offenders is broken and needs to be changed.

In a report out Thursday, the MBA says the state needs to put more resources into education, prevention and treatment for drug addiction instead of mandatory sentencing laws.

“If we look at drug addiction as a public health issue instead of a crime issue, then we have a much better model to work with to help people get treatment and to actually reduce crime,” said David White, the former president of the Massachusetts Bar Association and chair of the organization’s drug policy task force. “Because if we can treat the drug addicted person, that person is not going to have to turn to a life of crime to support a habit.”

White said the state spends up to $48,000 a year on keeping a non-violent drug offender in prison. He said putting an addict into a treatment program is about 10 percent of that incarceration cost.

One concern many people have is that many people who are addicted to drugs will often relapse throughout their treatment. But White said addiction should be treated like any other disease: There is often a need for continued medical care.

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