Drug Treatment Courts

Drug Treatment Courts (DTCs) aim to reduce crime committed as a result of drug dependency through court-monitored treatment and community service support for offenders with drug addictions. They also aim to reduce the burden of substance abuse on the Canadian economy, which has been estimated at $9 billion annually for areas including law enforcement, prosecution and incarceration.

As part of their structured outpatient program, DTC participants attend both individual and group counselling sessions, receive appropriate medical attention (such as methadone treatment) and are subject to random drug tests.

Participants must also appear regularly in court, where a judge reviews their progress and can then either impose sanctions (ranging from verbal reprimands to expulsion from the program) or provide rewards (ranging from verbal commendations to a reduction in court appearances).

DTC staff work with community partners to address participants’ other needs, such as safe housing, stable employment and job training. Once a participant gains this social stability and can demonstrate control over the addiction, criminal charges are either stayed (meaning a judgement is suspended or postponed) or the offender receives a non-custodial sentence (meaning restrictions other than jail, including house arrest). If unsuccessful, an offender will be sentenced as part of the regular court process.

There are now 6 DTCs operating in Canada: Toronto (December 1998), Vancouver (December 2001), Edmonton (December 2005), Winnipeg (January 2006), Ottawa (March 2006), and Regina (October 2006).

Drug Treatment Court Funding Program

Funding is provided through the Drug Treatment Court Funding Program, managed by the Programs Branch of the Department of Justice, in partnership with the Drug Strategy and Controlled Substances Programme at the Department of Health.

The objectives of the DTC Funding Program are as follows:

  • To promote and strengthen the use of alternatives to incarceration with a particular focus on youth, Aboriginal men and women and street prostitutes;
  • To build knowledge and awareness among criminal justice, health and social service practitioners, and the general public about drug treatment courts; and
  • To collect information and data on the effectiveness of DTCs in order to promote best practices and the continuing refinement of approaches.

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