NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Wednesday marked the grand reopening of the Northampton Community Justice Support Center. It’s one location of 18 across the state, that offers an alternative to jail time.
Instead of putting a person behind bars, the goal is to help them get back on their feet, and in the 22 years the program has been happening here, it’s shown results.
Matthew Johnson, a participant in the program, said “They might think it’s punishment. They might think it’s community service. It’s not community service. It’s personal growth.” Johnson made it through 150 hours of this program last year. A lot of what he said was about learning about steps to prevent recidivism.
“For people that are dealing with drugs and alcohol use and non-violent crimes I think is an important opportunity and if nothing else we know these types of interventions can cost as little as 1/10th of what it costs to incarcerate somebody,” said Vincent Lorenti, the Director of Community Corrections for the state’s Probation Service.
Lorenti said they offer treatment interventions for people living with addiction and connect people with resources to finish school or get to a career path. Currently, 600 people are taking part in this program across the state, with at least 1,100 referred each year, but Johnson hopes this can help even more people.
“If more people can get involved in the program, it will help the sheriff not having visitors at his facility, and the more people you have on the street doing the right thing, the better we off as a community,” said Johnson.
This program is available to people both at the time of sentencing and before the trial.