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Drug Court explainer

The video below provides an in-depth overview of the Drug Court of Victoria.


00:00:05:00 - 00:00:37:14
Drug Court participant: Drug Court supports you on every level that you could imagine. You know, they've helped me with housing, helped me importantly to rebuild who I wanted to be. And that's the most important because addiction really does strip you of your dignity and your integrity. That helped me to build those blocks. The foundations for which I stand today. And I stand tall and proud of who I am because of their help.

00:00:38:17 - 00:00:57:10
Magistrate Cameron: It's pretty incredible. To see how people can transform their lives from the lowest of places where they and generally the rest of the community think there's no coming back. To see what people are able to do with the right supports in place is inspirational.

00:00:57:17 - 00:01:05:16
Acting Sergeant Tess Holmes: You can see how it just it absolutely breaks that cycle of the recidivist offending that they'd found themselves in.

00:01:06:23 - 00:01:38:12
Voice-over: Drug Court strives to help people break the cycle of drug and alcohol related crime and enable them to have meaningful and productive lives. That also means less crime and a safer community. To achieve that aim, Drug Court sentences and supervises people who come before it by using drug and alcohol treatment orders or DATO to be eligible for DATO, a person must have a drug or alcohol dependency that has contributed to them committing a criminal offense for which they could be imprisoned.

00:01:39:00 - 00:01:59:21
Voice-over: So Drug Court provides an alternative to prison and focuses on treating the causes of substance use and related offending. It promotes behavioural change by providing wraparound support for participants. It empowers them to engage in recovery, address their health and well-being needs, and re-establish positive relationships.

00:02:00:14 - 00:02:25:13
Magistrate Cameron: Once drug or alcohol use becomes problematic. Life becomes chaotic. It becomes a cycle of offending in order to support that drug or alcohol dependency. Cycling into prison. Being released from prison without the supports that are necessary to be able to maintain abstinence. And in Drug Court, we seek to address all of those issues in a holistic way.

00:02:25:17 - 00:02:43:13
Jake Nguyen: A majority of the participants on the Drug Court as well have come through and come through traumatic backgrounds. So they develop these coping strategies to get them through life, to help them to survive. But when they come onto the Drug Court, what we essentially do is we break that all down and we try and teach them new strategies.

00:02:43:13 - 00:02:46:01
Jake Nguyen: We teach them different ways of living.

00:02:46:16 - 00:02:59:13
Prof Ari Freiberg: The Drug Court is not a soft option. It's very hard for people to get through it because they have to address those underlying problems, and they're very deep seated in many cases, and they won't be solved in a couple of days.

00:02:59:22 - 00:03:30:14
Voice-over: A DATO has two parts one, treatment and supervision, the other . In the custodial part sentences of imprisonment are put on hold as the participant is supervised while undergoing treatment in the community. But the custodial part can be activated if the participant isn't following the rules, meaning they may be sent back to prison. A multidisciplinary team does the supervision and assists participants with their treatment, helping them meet the requirements and rules of their order.

00:03:30:24 - 00:04:04:05
Voice-over: This team has a wide range of specialists, including clinical advisors, community correctional services, case managers and alcohol and drug counsellors. There are also police, legal aid lawyers, housing workers and of course, the magistrate. The magistrate leads the team and the team provide a holistic service to participants by coordinating and supporting their engagement with treatment. The team members explore the participants offending behaviours and patterns of substance use, working with them to identify meaningful goals and support needs relevant to their recovery.

00:04:04:15 - 00:04:12:04
Voice-over: They also hold them accountable and responsible for their actions and empower them to move towards recovery and positive behaviour change.

00:04:13:07 - 00:04:38:02
Magistrate Cameron
Consistency and fairness are key, and the magistrate really has to balance authenticity and care with their supervisory role, and that helps participants to become accountable for their own behaviours. To want to please the court and the team and in turn to develop a sense of what they want their lives to look like.

00:04:38:07 - 00:04:58:14
Jake Nguyen: So it can be anything from quite simply stabilizing someone's mental health or getting the physical health needs addressed. And for someone without a dependency, it can seem quite trivial, and it's like… but with someone with a dependency or substance use issue, it encompasses their entire life.

00:04:58:19 - 00:05:15:08
Winnie Sarpong: In regular case management appointments. We discuss the drug test results of participants confirm the curfew compliance, confirm their appointments are attended as per scheduled, and ensure that we discuss with them around their feedback and they progress on the data.

00:05:15:21 - 00:05:28:05
Sheridan Manley: The expectation is that the participant would come very regularly to counselling and probably weekly, and as they progressed throughout the order that might become fortnightly. And then we build in other goals.

00:05:28:12 - 00:05:48:08
Magistrate Cameron: Those incentives and sanctions form a very important part of what we do. That is to encourage and reward and acknowledge positive behaviours, but to then sanction negative behaviours that assists participants to understand what's acceptable behaviour.

00:05:48:11 - 00:06:10:07
Acting Sergeant Tess Holmes: And other role the Victorian Police plays in supporting the Drug Court is executing warrants of participants that have failed to attend a Drug Court hearing. The importance of arresting the participants in a timely manner is really important in the case where they might have relapsed or fallen out of touch with their caseworker or their support services.

00:06:10:17 - 00:06:38:10
Voice-over: The treatment and supervision part of the DATO is structured into three phases as participants achieve goals specific to their recovery, they are promoted to a higher phase by the magistrate. Once participants have successfully completed their goals, in the final phase, they are eligible to graduate from Drug Court while on a DATO. The participants are expected to attend weekly court hearings with the magistrate during phase one to supervise and monitor engagement and compliance.

00:06:39:04 - 00:07:05:09
Voice-over: There are fewer court hearings during phases two and three participants must undergo supervised urine screening for drugs and alcohol a number of times a week. They must also keep appointments with their case manager, drug and alcohol counsellor, and clinical advisor. To plan their treatment, rehabilitation and health and wellbeing needs. If appropriate, they can see a housing support worker to address short or long term housing needs.

00:07:05:21 - 00:07:11:01
Voice-over: So while a DATO can be demanding and challenging, participants are well supported.

00:07:11:24 - 00:07:34:22
Jo Finlay: On a drug and alcohol treatment order. You can't get by just doing the bare minimum and it's really challenging and it's often said that it's like a full time job, but the rewards the rewards when the drug and alcohol treatment order program conditions and the treatment pathway start to pay off, the rewards are incredible.

00:07:35:09 - 00:07:41:21
Sheridan Manley: Not unusual to see people employed when they graduate, engaged and study reconnected with their children.

00:07:42:08 - 00:07:58:13
Magistrate Cameron: It's in all of our interests that they are living healthy, productive lives, not committing, not committing criminal offenses to support a drug or alcohol dependency. We are all safer and we are better off as a community on every level.

00:08:00:16 - 00:08:17:24
Drug Court participant: Even when I feel hard, which we all we all do. It's not roses. It's difficult. The team was there to support me. No, matter what. And from a holistic point of view, at the end of the day, what I've got from Drug Court is a sense of self.

Last updated on 29 Mar 2023
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