Australian Institute of Criminology

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Drug courts

Media Release

11 October 1998

High levels of drug-related crime, increasing numbers of drug users and increasing rates of incarceration have prompted the Australian Institute of Criminology to examine the workings of Drug Courts.

The role of Drug Courts is to provide supervised drug treatment and rehabilitation to offenders referred to the court. Such courts have been established in the United States for a decade and more recently in the United Kingdom.

In releasing the report, the Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, Dr Adam Graycar, said Drug Courts

  • are focused on treatment, rehabilitation and reduced recidivism;
  • are more intrusive for offenders than a conviction or short sentence; and
  • are more expensive than traditional courts, but when taking the whole package (court+imprisonment+cost of reoffending) could be much cheaper.

Experience in Miami in the United States has shown that for every dollar spent on Drug Courts, approximately $7 is saved elsewhere in the criminal justice system. In Oregon, the saving was $2.50 to the criminal justice system and $10 to the community as a whole (when taking into account broader costs such as future offending).

Dr Graycar pointed out that Drug Courts

  • have had successes, but they will not produce a success every time, and careful judgments need to be made about acceptable failure rates;
  • face implementation challenges integrating criminal justice and treatment agencies, cooperative arrangements between judge, prosecutor and defence, and achieving objectives broader than those of the criminal justice system.