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.