Vermont* is responding to opiate addiction by passing new legislation creating a system for screening offenders and offering treatment and diversion to people determined to be at low risk for re-offending in a way that “scares” the 3rd party screener.
The bill was signed into law by the governor Tuesday and it gives prosecutors the option to send someone to treatment instead of jail.
Here’s how it works: when someone is arrested on drug charges they are screened by a third party to determine if that person is a good fit to be to be rehabilitated.
“If you are someone who the third party says they are scared of, you are going through the court process and will probably end up in jail,” said Governor Shumlin.
But the governor says if the third party believes you could become a productive member of society again you will have access to treatment.
“The prosecutor now has the option to say you will never go through the judicial process. We are going to move you to recovery and we will treat this like the disease that it is and try to work together to get you healthy again,” said Governor Shumlin.
Chittenden County State’s Attorney TJ Donovan says a pilot program of the new law has already been in place in Chittenden County for the last few years. And he says every year the program diverts at least 400 people to treatment instead of jail.
It sounds like a step in the direction of Portugal.
* CORRECTION: I originally said this was happening in New Hampshire.