Drug Courts

David Garrett blogs:

have just had the pleasure of listening to retired California Judge Peggy Hora speaking on Drug Courts in that state. These courts were introduced about 20 years ago, and seem to have been a resounding success on a number of fronts, particularly financial – for every dollar spent on Drug Courts, twelve dollars is saved on police and corrections budgets.

Rather than imposing prison sentences, Drug Courts suspend sentences pending the completion of drug treatment programmes that are tailored to each individual offender. If the offender successfully completes his or her programme, then the court imposes no further sentence. If they fail, they are sentenced as if the treatment programme had not been attempted. The offender does not suffer any additional penalty for attempting but failing to “get clean”.

In answer to a question from me, Judge Hora made it clear that treatment programmes in the community were not an option for violent offenders – regardless of their drug status. The Judge also observed that current thinking among addiction treatment specialists is that compulsory treatment within prisons can in fact be effective. Like most people, I had been of the view that compulsory treatment could not be effective. Her Honour noted that if compulsory treatments were to be effective, offenders had to “engage” with them – and apparently most do – and there has to be more intensive monitoring of those persons when they are back in the community.

Treatment rather than punishment sounds a worthwhile idea to me. A pity the Government ruled out any change to the drug laws.

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