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Issue 39.1

Guest Editor : Doug Heckbert


Championing the Cause of Drug Treatment Court In Canada
Author; former probation officer, prison caseworker, parole officer, staff trainer/program director, instructor

In this lead article, Guest Editor Doug Heckbert salutes Drug Treatment Court (DTC)’s method of combining “due process with a therapeutic component”. In this Special Section on DTC, Heckbert puts a spotlight on the lived experience of three DTC graduates, a DTC manager, a retired DTC judge, a counsellor/former police officer who applies the DTC regiment, and a BA Student (MRU) in the Young Researcher Section. These personal reflections reveal the benefits of the DTC approach in Canada and a myriad of factors that can impact their success. In this lead article, Editor Doug Heckbert questions the complete lack of comprehensive empirical studies on DTCs in spite of their twenty- five years of existence and embraces the news that Justice Canada and Statistics Canada agreed in 2021 to complete a recidivism study at a later date.

Mary Hogan’s Personal Account of Drug Treatment Court (DTC)
By JUSTICE MARY HOGAN (retired in 2023)
Justice (retired) of the Ontario Court of Justice

A recently retired justice of the Ontario Court of Justice, Mary Hogan reports on DTCs from lived professional experience. She speaks from the heart, noting she worked to make DTC a softer, gentler Court, away from American models that were punishment-oriented and emphasized abstinence. The administration of a DTC is not the same as for conventional courts; the judge does not lead the team alone but in partnership with legal and treatment teams and strong community ties. Other challenges include a lack of understanding not only among the public but within the legal system, including those in charge of funding. Hogan also emphasizes that more DTCs are needed but must be properly funded/resourced and employ evidence-based practices. While graduation is the goal, DTC success is measured in small steps facilitated by DTC staff, who daily witness tragic situations combined with a lack of resources.

Toronto DTC
Registered Psychotherapist, Toronto DTC Manager

Offering a well-informed, overview of the Toronto DTC from inception to present day, Robin Cuff (DTC manager for the past 12 years) illustrates that the evolution of Toronto’s DTC principles and practices has gone hand in hand with knowledge building. For example, better understandings of changes in the drug scene and the effects of certain substances that have come into vogue and also the importance of ensuring that services are trauma informed, among others. Robin laments the lack of funding increases over 20 years, as it directly reduces the number of people who can be accommodated through DTC; and yet the need is great and more complex. As well, recent structural changes have made consistent court staffing challenging, which is reductive to the trust and rapport at the heart of the DTC approach. While Cuff wishes for a world without the need for Drug Treatment Courts, she reports that DTC makes an important difference as a successful intervention model, filling gaps in services and serving as a smart alternative to incarceration.

CCJA Congress Registration
Banff 2024

Criminal & Addictive Thinking
Retired police detective; DTC counsellor

The knowledge, understanding and insight about criminal and addictive thinking can be obtained in many ways. For JoAnn, it came through the ‘learned experience’ of having worked in policing and counselling. Since 2006, JoAnn has worked for Edmonton’s Drug Treatment Court facilitating an evidence-based program, which she makes even more wholistic by expanding on certain themes. She views drug treatment court as the solution to addiction and criminal behavior, which represents a significant portion of the accused in Canada.

Accountability: The first step in my recovery
DTC Grad., former drug user and dealer, now an esteemed peer support worker

When Roberto first swallowed the bitter pill of accountability as an addict facing 3.5 years in prison, he embraced DTC’s restorative justice program, which included peer mentorship, endless assessments, and effective professional help. He is now doing a BA at MacEwan University and working as a Peer Support Worker with the Edmonton Drug Treatment Court Service, Alberta Health Services, and UTURN, a support group for youth and young adults. Roberto is also a facilitator in a Virtual Family Recovery Support group and coordinates/participates in various volunteer endeavors supporting Edmonton’s most marginalized and at-risk populations.

DTC Grad and Peer-Support Worker
DTC Grad. and Peer-Support Worker

Paulette had battled crack addiction for 25 years before Drug Treatment Court (DTC) broke the pattern and changed her world forever by facilitating full mental-health recovery. She learned self-love, forgiveness of self and that those who harmed her as a child were the root cause of her addiction. Today, Paulette Walker is a peer-support worker for DTC, chef, party planner, community minder, and much, much more.

I Applied to DTC So As Not To Go to Prison, but DTC Changed My Life
By RICK, DTC Grad.

As reflected in his title, Rick applied for Drug Treatment Court to get out of going to prison, but DTC freed him from the chains of addiction and changed his life forever. After graduation from DTC, Rick found himself without friends or any support group, at risk of not being able to stay true to the DTC credo of People, Places, and Things and vulnerable to a potential relapse into addiction. To find the support he needed, Rick turned to the church where he had carried out the ‘giving back to the community’ phase of his DTC recovery plan.

Drug Treatment Courts: An Effective Approach?
By UMAMA UMAMA, Mount Royal University
Bachelor of Arts – Criminal Justice (Honours, Class of 2024)

Drug treatment courts (DTCs) in North America emerged as a rehabilitative alternative to address the link between drug use and crime. Instead of imprisonment, DTCs employ court-monitored programs to tackle issues associated with substance abuse. DTCs employ various strategies, including the risk-need-responsivity model, harm reduction strategies, and Medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Individualized treatment is crucial due to the diverse needs of those abusing drugs. Canadian DTCs adhere to international, federal, and provincial guidelines to ensure optimal client treatment. Despite the robust debate questioning the efficacy of these specialized courts, research demonstrates that DTCs prove effective and cost-efficient when guided by established standards.

Opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the Association’s views, but are included to encourage reflection and action on the criminal justice system throughout Canada.

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