Alcohol and other drugs (AOD) are intricately linked with, and are both a cause and consequence of, crime and violence. Many offenders have AOD problems, are intoxicated at the time of offending, and/or commit crimes for the purpose of obtaining AOD. However, we are fortunate that there is a strong evidence-base to support the ACT to make both cost-effective and meaningful justice system reforms for the community and offenders.
ATODA is actively involved in the ACT justice system reform processes.
The Justice Reform Strategy (JRS) is a two year project which will work to inform proposals for community based sentencing alternatives to imprisonment and identify how sentencing legislation and practice can improve outcomes and reduce recidivism. It will also guide the development of proposals for government reforms to sentencing and related laws and programs designed to support the principles of sentencing.
The JRS has two strands:
- the repeal of periodic detention and the creation of a community based sentencing alternative to imprisonment; and
- to consider broader issues relating to sentencing and related matters leading to recommendations for legislation in 2016.
The move away from periodic detention has already begun, with the commencement of the Crimes (Sentencing) Amendment Act 2014 on 5 December 2014. As a result of the amendments to the Crimes (Sentencing) Act 2005, any sentence of periodic detention will need to end by 30 June 2016.
Further legislation will be required during 2015 to finally repeal periodic detention and introduce the new sentencing option. While the ACT already has a comprehensive and flexible sentencing regime, the use of intensive corrections orders in Australia and overseas as an alternative to full-time detention has provided a potential model on which to base the new sentence.
Although the primary focus of the JRS to date has been the repeal of periodic detention and the creation of a new sentence, work on the broader issues is now underway and is considering such matters as: mechanisms for addressing re-offending, the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and therapeutic responses for offenders with alcohol and other drug and mental health issues.
An Advisory Group has been established to oversee the strategy. For further information visit: http://www.justice.act.gov.au/page/view/3830/title/justice-reform-strategy
ATODA is a member of the Justice Reform Strategy Advisory Group.
The work-plan for the JRS includes a number of ‘core design workshops’. Each CDW focuses on a specific theme and draws on the expertise available in relation to that theme. They will provide an opportunity for in-depth consideration of key opportunities and challenges. Themes include: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities; therapeutic jurisprudence; intensive correction orders; alcohol and other drugs; mental health; and victims of crime.
The participants in each workshop will be invited based on experience, expertise and specialist knowledge and will necessarily vary between workshops. The JRS aims to access evidence and practice-based suggestions to inform proposals for reform.
ATODA, and its members, are participating in some of the core design workshops.
ATODA has been advocating for the ACT Government to progress and invest in justice reinvestment. See:
- ATODA, ACTCOSS and MHCC ACT’s 2013 Joint Submission on the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs Inquiry into the Value of a Justice Reinvestment Approach to Criminal Justice in Australia http://www.atoda.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Value-of-a-Justice-Reinvestment-Approach.pdf
- ATODA’s Submission to the 2014 – 2015 ACT Budget Consultation: “To undertake research into justice reinvestment in the ACT, in collaboration with key stakeholders, as per the 2012 ACT Government election policy statement for a Fair, Just and More Equitable Society: Justice and Law Reform.” http://www.atoda.org.au/wp-content/uploads/ATODA_Budget_Submission_2014-15_Final-Complete.pdf
Justice reinvestment was funded in the 2014-15 ACT Budget. The ACT Government sees that justice reinvestment is about developing a smarter, more cost-effective approach to improving criminal justice outcomes by reducing crime, improving public safety and strengthening communities.
The ACT Government has committed to the development of a whole of government justice reinvestment approach aimed at reducing recidivism and diverting offenders, and those at risk of becoming offenders, from the justice system.
It will involve the Justice and Community Safety Directorate working closely with a range of government and non-government stakeholders, over a four year period, to identify drivers of crime and criminal justice costs and then develop and implement new ways of reinvesting scarce resources – both in the community and within the prison system – in a way that results in a more cost-beneficial impact on public safety.
The ACT Government has committed that consultation and engagement will be central to the development of the Justice Reinvestment Strategy and will include government and community stakeholders, justice stakeholders (including judicial officers and the legal profession), and the broader community.
For further information see: http://www.justice.act.gov.au/page/view/3829/title/justice-reinvestment-strategy
ATODA is a member of the Justice Reinvestment Strategy Advisory Group.
The evaluation of the ACT Drug Diversion Programs was led by the Drug Policy Modelling Program, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales and Social Research and Evaluation.
The evaluation identified strengths and challenges of the ACT police and court drug diversion system and opportunities to expand the investment and effectiveness of diversion programs in the ACT.
- Document a comprehensive ACT AOD diversion strategy
- Establish a facilitator position for the whole ACT AOD diversion system
- Refocus all programs on drug diversion
- Establish an improved capacity for data management and evaluation of the AOD diversion system in the ACT
- Reform the Simple Cannabis Offence Notice (SCON) payment system to bring it in line with other infringement schemes in the ACT
- Increase Police Early Diversion (PED) thresholds for maximum quantity of heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy and cocaine that can be possessed
- Build a less resource intensive and more sustainable Early Intervention Pilot Program (EIPP)
- Re-define and re-launch the Court Alcohol and Drug Assessment Scheme (CADAS)
- Adopt short and long term solutions to get Court Alcohol and Drug Assessment Scheme (CADAS) assessors into the ACT courts
- Establish by the end of 2012 performance indicators and data systems for the Youth Drug and Alcohol Court (YDAC), and initiate work on developing an evaluation strategy for implementation in the second half of 2013
For further details see:
- ACT Drug Diversion Evaluation – Final Report
- ACT Drug Diversion Evaluation – Implementation Plan
- ACT Health website
ATODA provided advice and critical reflections throughout the evaluation.
On 24 March 2015, the ACT Legislative Assembly released the report on the Inquiry into Sentencing. It includes recommendations about drug court and drug diversion evaluation:
- Recommendation 23: The Committee recommends that the ACT Government introduce legislation to the Legislative Assembly that would, if passed, create a drug court in the ACT as a separate jurisdiction of the ACT Magistrate’s Court.
- Recommendation 24: The Committee recommends that the ACT Government work toward a coordinated suite of drug diversion programs as recommended by the 2012 Evaluation of ACT Drug Diversion Programs, including through the adequate collection of data and ongoing evaluation of programs
- Recommendation 25: The Committee recommends that the scope of the ACT Community and Work Order Program be expanded so that it becomes a sentencing option available to courts with respect to drug and drink driving and the Simple Cannabis Offence Notice Scheme (SCON).
- Recommendation 31: The Committee recommends that the ACT Government undertake targeted research on the criminogenic implications of early‐life exposure to drug use and frame remedial action to reduce and prevent this exposure.
ATODA’s is mentioned approximately 160 times within the Inquiry’s report.
Last Updated on 20 April 2015