Pubdate: Sat, 24 Jan 2015
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2015 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Mia Rabson
Page: A5


OTTAWA - Non-violent drug addicts who break the law will again have
the option of rehab instead of jail time as federal funding revives
the Winnipeg Drug Treatment Court.

Ottawa finally committed to renewing funding for the court, offering
$1.2 million over the next three years, the provincial government
confirmed Friday. The court stopped accepting new clients last spring
because Ottawa had not agreed to extend the funding beyond the end of

"This successful program addresses the root cause of criminal
behaviour to give participants the supports and strategies they need
to live a productive and positive lifestyle," Manitoba Justice
Minister James Allum said in a news release.

A statement from federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay's office late
Friday said the funds will be in place by April 1.

Manitoba Justice is in the process of taking over administration of
the court from the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, which has run it
with federal funding and provincial assistance since 2005.

"The federal government started to advise they had some concerns
flowing the money to non-governmental organizations more than a year
ago," said Shauna Curtin, the assistant deputy minister of justice for
Manitoba courts.

Curtin said she hopes to begin accepting new clients as early as April
1, noting work to take the court over from the AFM has been underway
for months.

"We knew this was likely going to happen," she told the Free Press in
an interview.

She said there are 25 people in the program right now, and normally
there is room for about 36. There is a waiting list, and as soon as
the restructuring is complete, there are people ready to start.

Ottawa's funding commitment is actually 20 per cent less than its
previous commitment of about $500,000 a year, but Curtin said the
court hasn't actually been spending all of its allotted amount in
recent years, so the cut shouldn't affect the program.

Shannon Prithipaul, head of the Criminal Lawyers Association of
Canada, said drug courts are "a very big deal."

"It's one of the ways the courts can respond more meaningfully," said

She said drug courts are a shift in thinking away from simple
punishment and toward treating offenders as an individuals who can be

The Winnipeg Drug Treatment Court is an option for some non-violent
offenders whose crimes were committed as a result of drug addiction.
They must apply to the program, the Crown and drug-court judge must
agree to admit them, and they have to plead guilty to their crimes,
make regular appearances before the drug-court judge and undergo
frequent drug testing and counselling.

Since 2006, Curtin said 76 people have graduated from the Winnipeg
Drug Treatment Court and about one in seven have reoffended.
Provincial statistics report about two-thirds of people released from
provincial jails will commit another crime, as do one-third of those
given conditional sentences and one-quarter of those placed on probation.

Prithipaul said rehabilitating a drug addict is a significant
reduction in costs to the health, justice and social-service systems.
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