Northampton Treatment Court Finally a Reality

Last month (January 2020), the Northampton (MA) District Court opened the “Northampton Treatment Court.” In an announcement written for the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Judge Maureen A. Walsh, Presiding Justice of the Northampton District Court, and Attorney Lisa Lippiello, founding partner of Olin Lippiello LLP, described the rationale for, and parameters of, this innovative criminal law initiative, which was the result of many months of meetings and collaboration with local partners including Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan, Hampshire Sheriff Patrick J. Cahillane, and area clinicians with the Department of Mental Health.

According to Judge Walsh and Attorney Lippiello, the Treatment Court “was created in recognition that the criminal justice system needs to consider different approaches in working with individuals on probation who are dealing with substance use disorders.” As a “special session” of the District Court, the new Northampton court “promotes sobriety and recovery for individuals for whom substance misuse has been a central factor in their court involvement and a barrier to a healthier life.” The new court, the article continues, “will support people ready for treatment because the physical and psychological addiction to these substances makes recovery challenging and people need all of the support they can get and not return to substance use” and this, in turn, “will reduce crime and improve the quality of life in our community.”

As to how the Treatment Court works, it is different than traditional probation, where the probationer is supervised by one officer and probation is based upon compliance and sanctions. The new court instead is focused around a “team approach” that “promotes rewards.” Unlike the typical adversarial system, “team members discuss each probationer’s progress and while the roles of the different members of the team vary depending upon their area of expertise, it is believed that the team can collectively influence in a positive way the individual on probation.” In addition, the Treatment Court is geared toward “high-risk and high-need offenders” who remain supervised by the Probation Department. As Judge Walsh and Attorney Lippiello point out, “participation in this court is entirely voluntary and takes place after adjudication, which means after a guilty finding is made or a person has admitted guilt.”

To learn more about the Northampton Treatment Court, here is a link to the entire article.