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Specialty courts can help defendants get a second chance

Many people who face criminal charges in Massachusetts will be able to take part in a specialty court program. These programs are meant to address some of the more common issues that people coming into the criminal justice system might face.

Residents of this state are fortunate to have a variety of specialty courts. They can help participants follow a plan to help them become productive members of society. Here are some important things to know about these programs.

Types of specialty courts

Drug court is the best-known type of specialty court. In Massachusetts, drug courts are divided into juvenile and adult programs. The other courts include special ones for the homeless, veterans and those with mental health needs.

One interesting program is the Family Drug Court, which is available in Franklin County. It offers special services to the entire family when a parent has a problem with substance abuse.

Suffolk County also has a special court for people who have unlicensed or illegal firearms. There is a similar one in Lynn District Court, too.

The Massachusetts Offender Recidivism Reduction Project works with people on probation who are considered high risk. These individuals go through random drug testing and various other components to try to divert them away from criminal activities.

Drug court's benefits

The benefits of drug court don't affect only the participant. For every $1 invested in this court, taxpayers stand to save up to $3.36, based solely on the criminal justice costs that don't have to be paid. About 75 percent of people who graduate from the program aren't arrested for two years or longer after the completion of the program.

For the participants, the primary benefit is that they can avoid having to spend time in jail or prison because of the drug charge. Participating in the program means they are six times more likely to remain in long-term treatment for their addiction. The supervision helps to keep them motivated to remain clean and sober.

Drug court is only appropriate for certain cases, such as for people who don't have violent charges and are willing to comply with the program's requirements. Since these courts are voluntary, you must ensure that you are ready to follow the rules. The same is true of other courts since they all have strict requirements and supervision components. These programs can provide a second chance to people who need one.

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