07:26am Wednesday 16 October 2019

UQ researcher says save the drug courts

Queensland Drug Courts were introduced in 2000 to provide closely supervised drug rehabilitation as an alternative to prison time.

Drug Court clients undergo compulsory drug treatment, regular attendance at court, participation in cognitive and behavioural therapy programs, and compliance monitoring through urine drug testing.

Dr Dingle is calling for the State Government to revise its plan to cut funding to the Drug Courts as she believes these clients are disadvantaged individuals who are trying to turn their lives around.

“The rehabilitation services are doing a fantastic job, however these budget cuts will drastically affect the way that residential rehabilitation services can operate.

“Local and international reports show that Drug Courts work; and save tax payers money because it costs more to keep these clients in prison than it does to rehabilitate them,” she said.

Dr Dingle conducts research to evaluate the rehabilitation services in south east Queensland, where many Drug Court clients are referred and treated for rehabilitation.

Her results show that Drug Court referred clients are significantly more distressed than self-referred clients when they enter rehabilitation (higher rates of serious depression, suicide attempts, lifetime rates of physical abuse and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder).

“Despite this, Drug Court clients stay an equal number of days in rehabilitation and most make substantial improvements in their psychological functioning, substance misuse and relationships,” she said.

“Funding to these rehabilitation services will be drastically affected by the State Government’s decision.”

Dr Dingle’s results echo a 2009 report from the Queensland Alcohol and Drug Research and Education Centre (QADREC), which showed that the majority of QLD court and police diversion program clients achieve significant decreases in their drug and alcohol use, risk behaviours (such as driving while intoxicated), domestic conflict and psychological distress.

QADREC director, Professor Jake Najman, said a large number of people currently in prison are there for drug related reasons such as theft and violence.

“The cost of keeping someone in prison for one year is estimated at between $50,000 and $100,000. It is much cheaper to achiever similar outcomes using Drug Courts.

“The decision to close the Drug Courts is likely to involve long-term additional costs to Queenslanders and I hope that the Queensland Government may re-establish these courts in future years,” he said.

Media: Dr Genevieve Dingle, +61 7 336 57295, dingle@psy.uq.edu.au

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