Standards on Substance Abuse: Summary of action steps

These Standards are designed to guide Massachusetts courts in responding to criminal offenders and civil litigants who abuse substances.

Table of Contents

Summary of action steps

The Standards should be reviewed in their entirety and kept handy as a reference guide. In brief, courts should:

  • become well informed about substance abuse, offer substance abuse information and referrals, provide access to education and training for court personnel, and ensure that probation officers are well trained and available (Standards I, II, III and IV);
  • look for opportunities at each stage of proceedings to use the court's authority in appropriate situations to order reluctant parties into treatment (Standard V);
  • watch for indications that substance abuse may be a factor in behavior related to a case and respond appropriately (Standard VI);
  • have "screening" tools in the courthouse and use them to obtain prompt, reliable information concerning use of substances (Standard VII);
  • use "assessments" to obtain more detailed information regarding substance abuse prior to determining the treatment best suited for the individual (Standards VIII and IX);
  • inform correctional authorities about substance abuse, and suggest that offenders be placed in treatment programs within correctional institutions (Standard X);
  • prohibit all use of alcohol and illicit drugs in each order setting substance abuse conditions (Standard XI);
  • through the probation department, intensively monitor compliance with court-imposed treatment conditions, through drug testing and other means, in order to ensure accountability (Standard XII);
  • take into account that relapse is a common interruption of the recovery process and employ strategies consistent with public safety to prevent it (Standard XIII);
  • using a directory of qualified treatment providers, identify treatment resources in the community and maintain working relationships with them (Standards XIV, XV and XVI);
  • communicate and collaborate on substance abuse issues with all involved in the court and in the community (Standard XVII);
  • use the courthouse for court-referred recovery and counseling sessions (Standard XVIII); and
  • respond appropriately to substance abuse within the court, among judges, court personnel, and lawyers (Standards XIX and XX).



Main number (617) 557-1000
Clerks' Offices Emergency Number (857) 275-8036
Clerk's Office for the Commonwealth (617) 557-1020

Francis V. Kenneally, Clerk

Clerk's Office for the County of Suffolk (617) 557-1100

Maura S. Doyle, Clerk

Public Information Office (617) 557-1114

Jennifer Donahue, Public Information Officer


John Adams Courthouse
1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500
Boston, MA 02108

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