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New study finds Queensland 'drug court' graduates less likely to re-offend

Media Release

17 March 2008

New research released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) shows positive outcomes for drug-dependent offenders who have taken up the opportunity for rehabilitation through the Queensland drug court program.

The report, The Queensland Drug Court: A recidivism study of the first 100 graduates, is the third in a series of AIC papers examining the drug court program and the outcomes for offenders in their endeavours to become drug and crime-free.

"The Queensland drug court is an innovative sentencing and treatment program that targets drug use as the root cause of criminal offending, rather than simply sentencing offenders," said Dr Toni Makkai, Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology. "There is a well-established evidence base that shows a high correlation between drug use and criminal activity, and special 'drug courts' have developed across Australia as part of an integrated response to drug-related crime.

"In all jurisdictions where they currently operate, including Queensland, drug courts sit at the 'hard end' of the criminal justice continuum, offering support and treatment for serious, usually repeat, offenders whose criminal behaviour is the direct result of long-term drug dependency."

The research shows that amongst offenders who completed the Queensland drug court program, offending declined by 80 percent when compared with offending patterns in the 12 months prior to drug court participation, and that this pattern is sustained into the medium to long term.

Offenders who did not complete the program also experience large declines in offending-a 63 percent reduction-but this pattern is generally no different from the re-offending rates of drug-dependent prisoners. This indicates that although the drug court did not necessarily improve their reoffending outcomes, it had no negative effect in worsening them.

"The findings from the research confirm earlier evidence that those who graduate from the drug court program have significantly improved criminal justice outcomes when compared to those who terminate the program early and/or are otherwise imprisoned," Dr Makkai said.

Media contacts: AIC - Lani Gerrish Tel: 02.6260 9273; 0403 746 009
Qld Department of Justice and Attorney-General - Danielle Brennan Tel: 07 3239 6997