Pubdate: Tue, 08 Nov 2011
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2011 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Gerry Bellett


Offenders diverted to Vancouver's Drug Treatment Court reoffend less 
than persons processed through the normal court system, an SFU 
researcher told the Canadian Centre for Drug Abuse National 
Conference on Monday.

Julian Somers, associate professor of health sciences, said the 
finding was based on a study of people handled by the Drug Treatment 
Court ( DTC) between 2001 and 2008 compared to a similar group 
handled by regular courts.

The study found there was also a 50- per-cent reduction in drug- 
related offences by those attending the DTC than by those attending 
regular court.

The DTC group declined by one offence per person per year. There was 
a drop in the comparison group, too, but it was only half as large," he said.

What it tells you is that as a mechanism for reducing offending, the 
Drug Treatment Court is twice as effective as the alternative," he said.

Canada only has six Drug Treatment Courts. By comparison there are 
2,400 such courts in the United States, he said.

Somers said the state of Washington estimates that by diverting 
offenders to drug treatment courts and treatment centres it will save 
$ 2 billion in prison costs over the next 20 years.

Other states that use similar programs are Texas and California, he said.

They have looked at the implications of sentencing and realized they 
are unable to afford the cost of incarcerating those people. Right 
now we're beginning to have that discussion here. If we follow their 
example and seriously consider alternatives to prison construction we 
can benefit from their years of experience," he said.

However, Canada doesn't have enough addiction treatment specialists 
in the civil system to handle such a diversion, so it's time to 
consider training more, he said.

Over a 10- year period it would have a more effective outcome and be 
considerably cheaper than building prisons."

The conference began Sunday and runs until Wednesday at the Hyatt 
Regency in downtown Vancouver.
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