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In this assignment we will begin by examining how a multi-disciplinary approach to drug offending behaviour is implemented. We will discuss the positive and negative elements that this approach has on people. Then there will be recommendations put forward in the hope of making partnership a success in the country.
"The drug addict engaged in street crime to feed a drug habit may well be unable but certainly be unwilling to view the criminal law as a stop sign" (Leahy, 2005). In this statement it would appear that Leahy is suggesting that our conventional methods of dealing with drug users criminal behaviour.
It was in 2001 when our first drug court opened. It was to run on a pilot basis and was aimed at one of the worst affected areas by drugs and crime, which was dublin's north inner city. In the north inner city the residents had found themselves over-run by the flow of heroin which had flooded into their neighbour hoods in the late eighties. With this in mind, it is important point out the origins of drug courts and some statistics that made the irish justice system bring this successful initiative to irish shores.
The first drug courts began in America in the late eighties and over time they spread right across America. The reason for the setting up of the court was to look at alternatives to imprisonment for addicts. The U.S. had then, and even has now one of the highest rates of prisoners per capita on the planet. In relation to addiction, the U.S. had 60% of its inmates imprisoned due to drug related offences and 75% of its inmates had drug abuse problems in 1985 and an alternative was sought in the form of the drug court. The drug court was a timely intervention as evaluations showed promising results for the first couple of years. The U.S. had nearly 700 drug courts and juvenile courts by 2000, and it was predicted they would have more than 1,000 by the end of that year. (www.ccsa.ca). One must consider these statistics as encouraging if they are continuing to expand and branch out into areas of juvenile drug offending.
Having expanded through America, Canada and eventually into Europe, the irish got their first one as a pilot scheme. It is situated in the old Richmond hospital grounds just off Brunswick street. It is made up of professionals from different disciplines such as, psychologists, criminologists, care workers, garda and of course, a judge. The emphasis is on treatment and a reduction in drug use towards a better quality of as an alternative to imprisonment. Of course, it does have certain criteria and is exclusive to particular individuals which will be explored in task 2, also, not all drug courts are the same nor are their programmes. The Irish court is run over three phases plus a pre-entry phase and is governed by incentives and sanctions. These incentives and sanctions determine how quickly an offender graduates from the programme or, conversely, how quick the court refers the offender back to the mainstream court where they would almost certainly face imprisonment.
When an offender is deemed suitable for the programme and has successfully completed the pre-entry stage they go onto the three stages which are-
Phase 1- stabilisation and orientation: This is the stage where the offender is expected to reduce their drug intake and get involved in part time education and training.
Phase 2- continuation and progress: At this stage the offender is expected to face their issues and be showing signs of positive change.
Phase 3- reintegration and self management: At this stage the offender is expected to take control of their lives. By this time they should have secured meaningful employment or full time education. They also would be expected to have faced their personal and social issues by now.
The impact that the drug court has had on everybody is enormous. It has taken many addicts off the street where they are no longer trawling the streets looking for something to steal in order to get their 'fix'. It has given the addict a new lifestyle and a sense of purpose in life. it has led the addict to a sense of belief in themselves and enhances their self esteem through the reintegration process and involvement in employment. The intellectual needs of the addict are met through the involvement in education and also takes the addict away from the negative sub cultures they were once part of, this is done by banning the addict from certain haunts and sometimes even certain people.
Through this process they are also beginning to form meaning relationships with more positive people and when they reduce their using or get totally clean they can begin to save money, form intimate relationships, have children, have their own car and even someday maybe even own their own house someday. For some addicts, they are so unmanageable they cannot even pay bills, so this progress is astronomical for those who can sustain it. Another area of the addicts life that is positively effected is health, it would be hoped that the addict, upon graduation, would be aware of the importance of health and now can manage and face up to certain diseases and infections thay may have picked when they were actively using in a unsafe manner.
There are also other groups to consider, such as, the community and the area as a whole. The community also suffers when it comes to addiction, many areas have been literally destroyed by drugs and drug dealing and for one or two of these addicts to clean up their act has a huge impact on the community even though some may say it is only a drop in the ocean. It is well known in society that much of the time when you take out one or two addicts and they can turn their lives around, that many others in the area choose to follow, especially if they find themselves in trouble with the law. Also the graduates are role models in their communities and are often invited by schools, drug task forces and Garda community panels to speak about their struggles and how they turned their lives around.
Another positive impact the drug court has is in the prisons, the drug court provides an alternative to prison where the offender can come out worse than they went in. Also the cost has to be considered, according to O'Donnell (2008) "At an average cost of â‚¬90,900 per annum per prisoner, a custodial sentence of any length is expensive". When correlating the categories of crime linked with addiction, the majority of drug crime shows up as petty theft, larceny and burglary. Although these crimes are very serious in some cases they have a tendency to highlight the fact that they rarely involve violence and therefore are better dealt with outside of the prisons where hatred and intimidation is commonplace.
While illustrating the positive aspects of the drug courts, one must take into account that it is a multi-disciplinary approach and requires and many professionals to work in collaboration with each other as well as the willingness of the addict. This means that professionals have to engage in training and to trust the recommendations made by the other professionals, however, decisions are made on a team basis and the old model of the judge making decisions based on evidence is replaced, and now there is a much more transparent approach by judges because they are incorporating the bottom up model by listening to what the team has to say before making any final decisions. It also takes society to believe in it, as many would see it as a soft option on crime and many people in society are not as forgiving or as understanding as the average social care student.
As we have seen in task 1, there are many positive aspects to the drug courts, nonetheless, it has many flaws, especially in Ireland. As said earlier, it started as pilot scheme in Dublin's north inner city in 2001, although it appears that it never really got beyond pilot stage. It is now 2009 and the drug court has not been expanded to any other areas of the county nor has it expanded to any other areas of the country. Heroin has hit many counties hard in Ireland and there has been no real push to expand it to any other counties. Also, the drug court does not deal with violent offenders while the ever expanding American version places an emphasis on this category of offender as one that really needs to be worked, Saum et al. states this -"Treating offenders with substance abuse problems, including those with past histories of violent crime is important so that we can break the drugs-crime-violence cycle". (www.allacademic.com).
The fact that one must be over 17 years old also poses a problem as Irelands addicts are increasingly getting younger, an Evening Herald investigation revealed that up to 40 children as young as 12 have become addicted to cocaine and heroin in Dublin. (www.ndc.hrb.ie). When you add the age exclusion to non violent criteria as well as the fact that this service is only available to people from the north inner city of Dublin leads one to ask why nobody has challenged the justice system on the grounds of discrimination. One might look at the government and their policies in searching for an answer to this obvious lack of will to get behind an initiative where the positives clearly outweigh the negatives. The costs of this programme are expensive considering the levels of professionalism and the period of supervision that is required, however, if it is keeping people out of prison and helping to build communities back up again, then the long term saving justifies the short term cost. Political will in health care is very hard to envisage lately with all the cut backs and job losses and this can only mean bad news for the drug courts as they rely on government funding and the agencies that provide the team members involved in the drug courts.
Recommendations that one could put forward would be that the government prioritises healthcare in relation to social problems like addiction. They need to be accountable to those who vote them in every year and stop filling the coffers of property developers and banks. They also need to take back what is rightfully ours - the Corrib gas line.
There should be an equal health care system where everyone gets the same treatment regardless of social status. This can be done by hiring taxes accordingly, this approach is common in Scandinavian countries where they have been very successful in fight the problem of drug addiction.
A bottom up approach to social problems in the form of people who are from disadvantaged areas, to have a say in the issues that concern them i.e. community centres, amenities and initiatives in their areas.
A community approach to addiction similar to the 'Vermont' study in schizophrenia where with proper supervision and support, and possibly a low dose methadone maintenance, the addict can be part of and participate fully in their communities.
Another approach I would like to see more of is 'restorative justice'. Restorative justice could be a great ploy in terms of petty crime and addiction. For the addict to be able to apologise to the victim would be a possible way of stopping a community from becoming embroiled in feuds and fighting. Also, this allows for the addict to give back to their community in the form of community service and at the same time, giving them something to do with their time as well as letting them know that they cannot just keep taking from society.