ACT Drug and Alcohol Court review shows positive results for community

Australian Greens

The ACT Drug and Alcohol Court is reducing re-offending, helping offenders get their lives on track, and saving the community money, according to an independent evaluation by the Australian National University which has been released by the ACT Government today.

The Drug and Alcohol Court provides an alternative to imprisonment, offering an effective and evidence-based therapeutic approach to reduce harm for individuals and more effectively protect the community. Instead of a custodial sentence, a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Order is imposed by the Court with a team of justice and health professionals supporting participants through the program to graduation.

The ACT Drug and Alcohol Court commenced in December 2019, following the 2016 Parliamentary Agreement between the Greens and Labor parties to establish the court.

Since commencement, 106 people have been referred for a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Order. As of 31 March 2022, 56 orders were imposed by the Court on participants with alcohol and drug substance use issues, beginning at an early age, often in the teenage years, but occasionally even younger.

“The Drug and Alcohol Court is an excellent example of building communities instead of prisons and getting better results for everyone,” Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said.

“The evaluation shows that this Court is having a positive impact on the lives, relationships and health of participants; reducing reoffending and keeping the community safe; as well as saving money for the community.

“The independent evaluation found that participation in the program has led to positive outcomes in psychological and physical health, quality of life, relationships, employment, emotional maturity, and hope and optimism about the future.

“Importantly, the evaluation results, while preliminary, also indicate the Court is reducing the reoffending of the participants. For example, offenders who completed their Drug and Alcohol Treatment Order successfully showed a complete cessation in offending during the follow up period covered by the report.”

In addition to these positive social and justice results, the court is also saving the community money by keeping people out of prison and instead helping to treat their behaviour. The report estimates $14 million has been saved due to avoided prison time – this is more than the cost of running the court.

“This specialist program is rehabilitating offenders whilst holding them accountable for their actions, which ultimately leads to a safer community for all,” Attorney-General Rattenbury said.

“The fact that we are fully utilising the Court program’s capacity shows how successful it has been in its first two years, so it is important that the ACT continues to fund this transformational program.

“This evaluation report will help inform decisions around the next steps for the Court’s future such as size and funding, as the ACT Government prepares a formal response to this extensive evaluation.”

To read the evaluation report, click here.

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