The government introduced the legislation last week which will allow courts to issue substance-dependent offenders with drug and alcohol treatment orders.
According to a statement from Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay, the new sentencing option, first flagged as a parliamentary agreement item back in 2016, has been established to reduce recidivism where an offender’s substance addiction has formed a large part of the reason for their offending.
The Drug and Alcohol Court will impose heavy compliance measures on offenders to ensure successful addressing of substance abuse issues “which have perpetuated their criminal activity”, according to Mr Ramsay.
He explained that the court’s sentencing option “will provide both targeted and structured health and justice interventions for [addiction-affected] offenders”.
“Drug and Alcohol Courts have been operating in other Australian and international jurisdictions for a long time and have proven to be effective at achieving long-term behavioural change in offenders,” Mr Ramsay highlighted.
It forms part of the ACT government’s strategy to reduce recidivism by 25 per cent by 2025, and aligns with a territory initiative of “Building Communities, Not Prisons”, the Attorney-General also outlined.
To ensure the Drug and Alcohol Court is as effective as possible, Mr Ramsay said the government had conducted “comprehensive and extensive consultation” with key stakeholders.
“This included working closely with the ACT legal community and other DAC jurisdictions to develop the policy and legislative framework to ensure the measure is as successful in the ACT as it has been elsewhere,” he continued.
Work will continue over coming months in the lead-up to the Drug and Alcohol Court’s final sentencing option, the minister’s statement said.
The DAC is operational and accepting its first offenders towards the end of 2019, and Mr Ramsay flagged that there would be “an extensive monitoring and evaluation process over the first two years of the DAC’s sentencing implementation to fine-tune its operation”.