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Group Comes to Westford Advocating for New State Drug Court System

The National Center for DWI Courts held a conference at the Regency last month to highlight the effectiveness of a certain type of drug court several states are pursuing across the nation.

With drugs and alcohol recurring as a hot topic in Westford over the past year, one group arrived at the Regency last month with what they believe is a solution for the worst substance abuse offenders.

In a talk hosted by the National Center for DWI Courts, or the NCDC, local law enforcement and judicial figures heard the benefits of the growing type of court geared solely on repeat offenders accused of significant or repeat claims of drug and alcohol abuse.

This type of court, known as a DWI court, (or OUI court in Massachusetts) now exists in 600 local courts across the country, including Ayer District Court, which serves Westford.

Unlike traditional drug and alcohol cases, DWI court teams focus not just on punishment, but also addiction treatment, continuous offender drug testing and incentive programs for offenders who stay clean.

According to the NCDC, the system has reduced repeat OUI/DWI offenders by 65 percent in areas across the country.

“DWI courts are significant because they’re taking repeat offenders and saying ‘we’ve tried before changing their behavior through the traditional court system and something didn’t work, we’re still seeing them.’”, said NCDC Director David Wallace.

Wallace hopes to train 15 DWI court teams in Massachusetts by the end of November, a feat he calls “unheard of” in any other part of the country.

“It’s hard for all of us to change behavior, and it’s even more difficult for someone addicted to a drug,” said Wallace. “(so having more of these courts), will help Massachusetts to have a more effective program to make a difference with these repeat offenders.”

This training is funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration through the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and  Security and with additional funding  from the Administrative Office of the Trial Court.

More information on the NCDC is available on their website.

Bob Bursey November 19, 2012 at 03:27 PM
And yet the BOS want to let a 4th liquor store on Minot's Corner. Seems like they are encouraging alcohol abuse. There is no other town in New England that has four stores on one corner. Not Boston. Not Manchester. Not Worcester. But Westford wants to be that town. 5 people making the decisions for 23,000. Good form of government. Maybe we can put four of these courts on the corner too.
Dan D. November 19, 2012 at 03:35 PM
bring on the 4th store, competition is great! I don't think we really need a nanny state limiting our choices. I also have some faith remaining that people can act responsibly without the nanny state trying to control alcohol sales. People who abuse alcohol will find a way to do so, even if the number of stores is reduced. Someone once shared with me a very wise observation: Treat people like children and they'll act like children, treat them as adults and they will act accordingly. We should try it sometime in this state.
Mike November 19, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Jack, some other questions for you to consider along the same lines of your reasoning that an additional liquor store would encourage alcohol abuse: -- Does having three gas stations on the same corner make people drive more? -- Will having two Market Baskets so close to each other make people shop more? -- Does having 11 restaurants within 500 yards of the same corner contribute to obesity?
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) November 19, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Jack, I wish I had the time to fact check your four stores on one corner comment to make sure. It's probably true in Massachusetts given municipal caps and it's definitely true for New Hampshire (all liquor-only stores in the state are owned by the state), but can't speak for the other states.
Dan D. November 20, 2012 at 12:14 AM
Gosh and golly, this new OUI court sounds like a super cool idea. What seems to be always missing from these articles is any discussion of cost/benefit analysis. How much more money to run these, how much to train the 15 teams. how many new hires are required at what cost, how many new programs and how much will they cost the taxpayers. How many more people (not percentages, please) actually do NOT show up again as offenders for ANY crime over a 10 or 20 year period as a result of the programs (compared to those who don't go through them...and are they for the same crimes)? How much do we (the taxpayers) actually save, if anything by doing this? I haven't seen any answers from our public servants or the press (what DO they teach in journalism school, anyhow? It doesn't seem to be asking hard questions) It may be a great idea, or yet another wasted bunch of money that produces marginal additional benefit, if any at all.
Mike November 20, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Dan, this PDF should answer some of your questions, available from the link at the bottom of the story: http://www.dwicourts.org/sites/default/files/nadcp/Georgia%20Final%20Study.pdf Based on some knowledge of the way the system works in Florida, most of the teams created as part of the OUI courts consist of existing personnel. There's little if any new hiring involved, and new positions are probably going to be mid-level administrative and not top-tier. Your other questions about recidivism are answered in the PDF.

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