SECTION 1. There shall be a commission to study the current practices, needs, impact, and accessibility of Massachusetts Adult Drug Courts. The commission shall be comprised of 13 members including: one appointed by the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, one appointed by the Massachusetts District Attorney Association, one appointed by the Massachusetts Center of Excellence for Specialty Courts, one appointed by the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, one appointed by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, two appointed by the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery, two appointed by the Speaker of the House, two appointed by the President of the Senate, and two appointed by the Governor. Members shall bring a diversity of expertise to ensure the conduct of a quality impact and accessibility assessment. Areas of expertise, include clients who have lived experience and graduated from an Adult Drug Court, those with professional experience and expertise in criminal justice, substance abuse treatment and recovery, legal defense, and assessment and evaluation methods and tools.
The commission shall consider the following:
(i) examine whether the number of Adult Drug Courts in Massachusetts are able to meet statewide need;
(ii) examine current capacity and resource challenges for existing Adult Drug Courts in Massachusetts. The commission shall collect data on, but not limited to, the number of individuals served, caseload ratios, number of dedicated staff, estimated unmet need, and availability of resources in the trial court and community or region of the trial court that may impact the success, sustainability, and ability to meet community need;
(iii) examine the barriers to ensuring an adequate number of Adult Drug Courts in Massachusetts, paying particular attention to specific gaps in resources, including, but not limited to, recovery housing, residential treatment, transportation, mental health treatment, and funding, and how these barriers impact the capacity of drug courts to reach specific geographic, racial/ethnic, and socio-economic communities;
(iv) examine possible racial/ethnic and gender disparities in access and equitable treatment in Massachusetts Adult Drug Courts;
(v) assess current uses of incentives and sanctions in Adult Drug Courts, including, but not limited to, the types of incentives and sanctions used, the frequency in which incarceration and detention are used as a sanction, any policies, procedures, and practices related to assigning incentives or sanctions to specific actions, and to what degree incentives and sanctions are applied equitably;
(vi) identify the number of drug court cases that are the result of post-plea diversion and deferred sentencing, post-sentencing and probation, or other disposition models;
(vii) consider the positive and negative impacts drug courts have on participants. Examine ways drug courts can improve outcomes and mitigate potentially negative outcomes of engagement with the criminal justice system; and
(viii) identify current sources of funding for Adult Drug Courts in Massachusetts and challenges faced by courts in acquiring adequate funding.
The commission shall issue a report of their findings and legislative recommendations on improving availability, accessibility, efficacy, and equity of drug courts to the clerks of the house and senate and the chairs and vice chairs of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Recovery and Joint Committee on the Judiciary no later than two years after the first meeting of the commission.
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