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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 11 Hansard (Tuesday, 24 September 2019) . . Page.. 3749 ..

… have firmly established that the Drug Court is both more effective and less expensive than gaol.

BOCSAR found that Drug Court participants (whether ultimately successful on the program or not) were 17% less likely to be reconvicted for any offence, and those who successfully completed the Drug Court program were 37% less likely than a comparison group to be reconvicted of any offence at any point during the follow up period.

A court such as this also has a financial benefit for the community. In his 2017 review, Judge Dive said:

The cost to the community by NOT providing a Drug Court program is reflected in some analysis of the 2017 year. Ninety-six (96) apparently suitable offenders were unsuccessful in the ballots conducted …

So what happened to them? The 96 referred offenders who were unsuccessful in the ballot were sentenced in the Local Court, or the District Court … to a total of 561 months as their non-parole periods. Applying the average daily cost of adult incarceration of $172.80, those sentences cost the community $2.91 million.

I note that the cost per day in the ACT is a lot more. I note also that the jail is at, or close to, maximum capacity. So I believe that what is happening in New South Wales applies even more so to us as a jurisdiction. The report states:

The year in review was another year of proven success. Every performance indicator showed improvements, and records were broken:

The number of graduates eclipsed the century mark for the first time …

Program entrants increased to the highest in six years …

Program completion was a record …

Participants not required to return to gaol—a record 190 or 58.28%

Extra graduation ceremonies were frequently required at the Parramatta Drug Court, given the numbers graduating.

His Honour sums up the case for a drug and alcohol court as follows:

The Drug Court was a brave experiment 20 years ago. It is now a well-established and useful part of the justice system, providing … people with a decent opportunity to climb out of the wretched life they have been living, and, at the same time, relieve some of our communities from drug-related crime.

I note that this was 20 years ago in New South Wales. This is certainly something that all three parties have been calling for. I welcome the fact that we are finally at this point today.

Turning to the bill itself, the legislation creates the framework for the drug and alcohol court by amending the Crimes (Sentencing) Act 2005 as well as other relevant legislation. It establishes the processes for issuing a drug and alcohol treatment order or DATO—perhaps the minister will tell me the correct pronunciation—as an alternative sentence to imprisonment.

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