Australian Institute of Criminology

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Court drug diversion initiatives conference

Carlton Crest Hotel, Brisbane Queensland
25 May 2006 - 26 May 2006

Introduction

The Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney-General in cooperation with the Magistrates Court of Queensland, the Australian Institute of Criminology, and the Griffith University Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance, is pleased to present a conference on Court Diversion Initiatives for drug offenders.

Many indicators demonstrate a proliferation of illicit drug use in the Australian community over recent years. The response of various governments and justice administrations has included the development of additional means to divert offenders, in possession of personal amounts of illicit drugs or motivated to commit crime by their drug dependency, away from prison into treatment options. Historically restricted to "probation" and "community service" orders, new court sentencing options have emerged; such as Court Diversion (for minor possession), MERIT (a mid range intervention response) and Drug Court (intensive intervention). These initiatives have been energised by a belief, at least for non-violent offenders, that the drug use of these offenders can be successfully addressed by community based therapeutic intervention rather than by punitive responses. A theme of Therapeutic Jurisprudence has emerged within some new court initiatives. Often introduced as "pilot" initiatives, many court drug diversion programs are being independently monitored and evaluated. These evaluations are contributing to identification of "best practice" intervention models and defining tangible outcomes for the ongoing funding consideration of executive government. Evaluations can reflect not only on justice administrations but also on judicial officers, creating new tensions in preserving the independence of the court. In many locations across Australia the role of justice administration is being extended to broker robust and effective operational relationships with therapeutic treatment providers, in both the government and non-government sector, to achieve the effective implementation of court orders.

Papers and presentations