In welcome news, the NSW Drug Court has announced that it is expanding, giving more drug-dependent people an alternative to prison.
The Drug Court takes a holistic approach to drug offences and prioritises treatment and rehabilitation over jail time. This evidence-based approach focuses on treating the underlying causes of the person’s offence and breaking the cycle of reoffending.
However, the Court currently sits just one day a week and only takes 40 participants each year. Its expansion will see it move to full time in January and increasing its capacity to 160 participants. For young people convicted of drug offences this could offer a much-needed alternative to entering the prison system.
The program supports drug-dependent people to find housing and a job and provides them with counselling and holistic support. By giving these people the opportunity to recover, the long-term impacts of drug dependency can be avoided, both for individuals and the community.
The expansion will begin on September 20, 2023, with the Court sitting three days a week instead of the current one. It will begin to sit full-time, or five days, in January. Participants who are successful will have their supervision loosened over time by the Drug Court. There are consequences for participants who fail to make progress in the program, including short-term suspended prison sentences.
This expansion of the Drug Court is a step towards the legal system recognising that addiction is a health issue and providing people with the support they need to get well. To break the cycle of drug offending, particularly for young people, it is essential that drug offences are treated as more than breaking the law; they are part of a deeper cycle that people are able to recover from with the right support.