This side event, organised by the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), took place on Tuesday at lunchtime to discuss several examples of diversion of drug offenders from custody into treatment and other health services.
During his introductory remarks, the chairman of IDPC discussed the reasons why diversion was necessary for drug offences, especially when it relates to dependent users. This includes the high costs related to incarceration of large numbers of people, the creation of lucrative drug markets within prisons, and the health consequences related to drug use in overcrowded prisons. This was particularly highlighted by a presentation from a representative of the Transnational Institute, who described the high social costs of prison overcrowding with drug offenders in several Latin American countries.
Instead of presenting the usual examples of diversion into healthcare services in Portugal, the US drug courts or the UK cautioning system, IDPC decided to present less known developments. Many countries around the world, including some that have long been known for their harshness with regards to law enforcement and punishment of drug users, have started to turn to diversion mechanisms. This session therefore included presentations from high-level officials from Malaysia and from the United Arab Emirates, whose governments recently introduced diversion mechanisms for dependent users into drug dependence treatment. A more comprehensive description of the session will soon be posted on the IDPC website at www.idpc.net.
With the participation of between 60 and 70 people, including NGO representatives, policy makers and journalists, this session was a great success.