Diversion From Incarceration to Treatment

DPFMA asserts that low-level, non-violent drug offenders should be diverted from incarceration to the appropriate level of services for their addiction severity.


  • In 1981, the “Drug Dependent Persons Act” granted trial court judges in Massachusetts the authority to divert low-level drug offenders to treatment programs. Unfortunately, that law has lapsed into disuse throughout the Commonwealth.
  • In 2000 a statewide ballot initiative, Question 8, would have diverted would have diverted drug offenders from incarceration into treatment and paid for the treatment services through assets forfeited from drug dealers. [Link to Asset forfeiture page]. Unfortunately, this initiative was defeated by law enforcement groups that wanted to keep the forfeiture funds for themselves.
  • In the 2003-2004 legislative session DPFMA supports S.1139, sponsored by Senator Dianne Wilkerson (D-Second Suffolk), and H.2999, sponsored by Representative Frank Smizik (D-Brookline). These companion Senate and House bills would have allowed first- and second-time, low-level, non-violent drug offenders into treatment instead of incarceration. Unfortunately, these bills were not voted out of Committee befor the end of the session.


  • DPFMA is working with judges, doctors, substance abuse and treatment providers, social workers, caseworkers, public defenders, and others to support alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent, low-level drug offenders.
  • In the 2005-2006 legislative session DPFMA is supporting a new bill — H.3556 sponsored by Representative Martin Walsh which extensively modifies current Massachusetts Diversion law so that it is mandatory, rather than discretionary.
  • Additionally, DPFMA supports two bills that have been reintroduced from the 2003-2004 session S.1077 & H.984sponsored by Senator Wilkerson & Representative Smizik respectively