WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate wants to deal with the state’s crowded prisons by creating a different avenue for drug offenders. 22News looked into the proposal to decriminalize drugs.
Bert Lopez has family members and knows friends who have been incarcerated because of drugs. He told 22News they’re released with a criminal record and no skills; likely to reoffend.
“You put them in jail they come back out and they’re doing the same thing all over again. But if you give them some training, show them how to stay clean. Spend the money on that instead of putting them in jail,” Lopez said.
Juliette Kayyem, one of five Democrats running to replace Governor Patrick, said this week she wants to help such individuals by perhaps decriminalizing some drugs.
Kayyem doesn’t mean decriminalizing drugs to make them civil offenses. She wants to move the offenders from the criminal justice system to specific drug courts and treatment programs.
“Jails are a good alternative for certain individuals but minor drug offenses I don’t think they should jam up the system,” said Vincenzo Rettura from West Springfield.
Attorney General Eric Holder supports similar legislation, limiting harsh sentences for smaller offenses. He said it would ease the burden on crowded prisons and save taxpayers money.
“There has to be treatment and there has to be the availability of treatment. Not all people want to be reclaimed,” Richard Morrissey from West Springfield said.
There are already drug courts in some regions of Massachusetts; defendants are required to enter rehab, move to some sort of sober living facility, or get steady work.