The court system has changed dramatically over the past few years, according to Worcester District Court judge and Worcester State University 1982 graduate Michael G. Allard-Madaus, who called it a microcosm of what is happening in society. In the past, courts were traditionally considered the last place people went. “Now, for many people, it is the place of first resort. Much of that can be traced to the breakdown of traditional safety nets,” he said.
Families are devastated by the opioid crisis, church attendance is down, and political systems are considered broken, he said. “Society’s safety nets are gone—where do they go?”
Allard-Madaus, who founded Worcester’s first Recovery Court, gave the 2017 Candace Allen Scola Memorial Lecture on Tuesday, October 17, before a full house of students, faculty, and staff. Noting that family violence is often related to substance use disorder, he said families can be helpful in recovery, but also problematic.
“Some of the impediments to recovery can be family,” he said. Family members may also be battling substance abuse problems, and returning back to the same triggers after treatment can be problematic, he said.
“Mental health, lack of housing, unemployment, transportation—all of these can also be barriers to recovery. Many of our participants do not have all the creature comforts we all enjoy. When they walk out of this court house, anything goes,” he said.
In his dream world, the recently opened courthouse in downtown Worcester would have been constructed with a hospital on the first floor, a detox center on the second, a mental health clinic on the third, and court rooms on the very top—reflecting the importance of each institution in treating deviant societal behavior.
Recovery Court is for high-risk, high-need people whose crimes are related to their addiction. They have voluntarily signed a contract agreeing to a litany of requirements that will allow them to address their disease and stay out jail. The court rewards these probation violators for positive behavior, but not for relapses, reflecting the understanding that substance use disorder is a disease.
Started in 2015, the Worcester Recovery Court has had one graduate. Allard-Madaus said he hopes six or seven more will graduate in January.
He cautioned students in the audience that substance misuse will touch their lives in one way or another. “This is an issue for the rest of your lives,” he said. “We are awash in drugs in this country, and this is the new normal.”
Allard-Madaus, who majored in urban studies as a WSU student, received his law degree from Suffolk University Law School. He was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1986 and had a private practice concentrating in criminal and civil litigation. He was sworn in as an associated justice of the Worcester District Court on June 30, 2010.
The Candace Allen Scola Memorial Lecture is in remembrance of Candace Allen Scola, who was brutally stabbed to death in her Worcester-area home in 2002. Candace was a student at Worcester State at the time of her death. She was majoring in elementary education and was well-liked across campus. To this day, no one has been indicted for this murder. The case has attracted wide attention, including in domestic violence circles.
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