Pubdate: Tue, 14 May 2002
Source: Herald, The (UK)
Copyright: 2002 The Herald
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)


Scheme Seems To Be Producing Welcome Results

We would expect the Scottish Executive to be upbeat about the early results 
of a novel initiative it is supporting with public funds to reduce drug 
abuse and drug-related crime.

There is a lot more than political credibility riding on the drug-court 
regime being tested in Glasgow. Drug-related crime costs Scotland many 
millions of pounds a year and wrecks countless lives, afflicting the 
victims as well as the perpetrators who rob and mug to fuel habits that can 
eventually kill. The executive has embarked on a bold scheme to stop the 
revolving door that leads from addiction to criminality to court to prison 
to release and back again to crime and another custodial sentence. In the 
process, the convicted addict learns nothing but more bad habits in prison. 
The cycle is as wasteful as it is depressingly predictable. It closes out 
the notion of rehabilitation. Yet no criminal justice system can be 
effective without rehabilitation. The drug courts, being piloted in the 
city with the biggest drug problem in Scotland, offer rehabilitation and, 
in the process, hope for the person who comes under their jurisdiction, as 
well as society generally.

Six months into a two-year trial period in Glasgow, the initial indications 
are positive.

The courts, which are also to be rolled out in Fife, employ the drug 
testing and treatment orders scheme which has already been tested in both 

These orders, which have already been tested over two years in Glasgow and 
Fife, offer convicted offenders the opportunity to go on supervised 
treatment programmes as an alternative to imprisonment. In return, they 
must undergo frequent drug tests and, if they persistently fail, prison is 
the likely outcome.

According to the executive, research carried out at Stirling University 
shows that, after six months on a drug testing and treatment order, an 
offender's drug habit is only 10% of what it had been beforehand. There is 
also a huge drop in drug-related crime (by between 88% and 90% of the 
previous total) because the offender does not have the same habit to satisfy.

These are promising developments. The regime being tested in Glasgow and 
soon to start in Fife might offer even greater prospects of success because 
the orders are being imposed and supervised by specialist, discrete courts 
dealing with drugs.

The new courts have imposed almost twice as many orders as were laid down 
under the previous pilot.

If the rehabilitation rate among offenders is as high as the Stirling 
research suggests, and can be delivered consistently, the drug courts 
should have great potential to help addicts out of their addiction and into 
leading constructive, purposeful lives.

That would clearly benefit them, but it would be a gain for society, too, 
because the cost of drug-related crime would be slashed.

Drug courts still have to prove themselves in the long run, but the early 
signs are good.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager