Currently in New Zealand a majority of crime is fuelled by alcohol or other drugs. Frequently these offenders, when apprehended, are given short sentences of imprisonment during which time they do not undergo any rehabilitation. They are then released back into the community where they are free to continue their offending until the next time they are caught. This approach is referred to as a ‘revolving door’. Such offenders are not necessarily deterred by the prospect of imprisonment and are of the view that they have “done the crime and done the time”.
Some offenders are sentenced to longer terms of imprisonment where there will be requirements on them to undertake rehabilitative efforts – if not in prison, then as parole conditions. However, there is no drug or alcohol testing for offenders on parole. If such offenders continue to use alcohol/drugs then their likelihood of re-offending is high.
Some offenders receive community-based sentences. Home Detention is a sentence served in the community for serious offending. However, although there is a standard condition that the offender is not to consume alcohol or illegal drugs for the duration of their sentence, there is absolutely no testing to ensure compliance.
Current attempts to meaningfully rehabilitate AOD offenders are inadequate, and where AOD dependency remains unaddressed related offending continues. This approach is referred to as ‘catch and release’. It is ineffectual, costly, harmful, and does nothing to protect the community apart from the obvious utility that while incarcerated for a short period offenders cannot commit crime.
Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Courts (AODTCs) have been proven to be effective in preventing recidivist crime and more cost effective than the ‘catch and release’ approach, by offering a regime of treatment and rehabilitation with monitoring for AOD offenders. AODTCs screen and identify offenders who are able, with support and treatment, to make positive changes in their lives, in turn affecting the lives of their family and dependants. AODTCs challenge the motivation behind criminal offending rather than simply imposing the punitive measures of traditional criminal courts. Currently in the United States there are 2559 drug courts in operation.
The public need to become informed on what needs to change to best protect our families, livelihoods, communities and also those who, with our help, could be rehabilitated thereby reducing recidivism. Addiction, if not addressed, will result in offenders continuing to take risks and becoming increasingly desperate in their efforts to fuel their addictions. This in turn puts the public at increased risk and makes our communities a less desirable place to work and live.
I have compiled this paper so we can be better armed when we ask for accountability from those charged with ensuring we are safe in our society. Please click on the icon above to download a copy.