Hope is on the horizon for those who abuse drugs and find themselves in trouble with the law.
Members of the Legislative Assembly have approved a Drug Court Law, which will give judges and magistrates a new tool when dealing with addicts.
Passage of the law comes after the realization that many people who commit crimes don’t necessarily belong in jail; they need help.
More often than not a drug abuser who commits crimes is doing so to help support his or her habit.
If you can take away the habit, you’ll take away the need to commit the crimes.
Under the Drug Court Law offenders would have to meet stringent requirements before being allowed the option of trial in open and public criminal court or closed Drug Court.
The treatment programmes proscribed by the Drug Court would include group counselling sessions, education and one-to-one sessions with the offender and treatment provider.
As simple as it sounds, it won’t be an easy ride.
Offenders will have to work hard and show a desire and willingness to be weaned from drugs.
The Attorney General and Courts have said they realize most offenders won’t be rehabilitated the first time through.
But they also promised not to give up on the offenders.
The Drug Court Law also allows for the offender being responsible for part of the treatment costs.
The length of stay in the programme will depend on the offender’s needs. While undergoing rehab the criminal charges will be kept in abeyance.
The sunshine at the end of the long tunnel of rehabilitation under the Drug Court Law is that once the offender successfully completes the programme, he would be granted an absolute or conditional discharge.
Throughout the course of the programme an offender can request that he be taken off the programme and tried in criminal court.
The Courts also have the authority to remove the offender from the programme if there is seen to be no useful purpose for the offender staying in.
The overall goal of the new law is to reduce the harm that people do to themselves and others under the influence of drugs.
Offenders who qualify for and participate in the programme will be helping out more than just themselves.
By not going to prison, Government won’t have to pay for that person’s incarceration and the prison population will be reduced.
If part of the programme involves letting the offender stay in the community to work, that means his or her family won’t become dependent on Family Services because he or she will be able to maintain a job while being treated.
Far too often drug use is the underlying root of a criminal’s problem.
Government has found a way to offer hope and help to addicts who find themselves in legal trouble.
Now it’s up to the offenders to determine if they want to become useful and productive citizens.
It won’t be an easy task, but nothing worth having is ever gained through easy means.
We look forward to watching the Drug Court in action and seeing good people returned to their senses.