Side event – Alternatives to incarceration, the experience of Mexico and the USA

Michael Botticelli, USA White House. Drug courts enable people to be diverted from the criminal justice system into treatment. We push people to be abstinent by conducting random drug testing, etc. We also believe that drug treatment should not stop at the prison door. We work hard to promote evidence-based treatment. People who are in the prison facility go back to the community and we are looking at ways to referring them to health care, employment, housing and education. There are discriminatory practices for former drug offenders in society. We issue guidance and best practice to promote employment among these offenders. Our strategic goals focus on how people can access ongoing support services in the community. There is a variety of statistics to ensure that strategies and programmes are effective. We also have a full strategy to ensure a full range of services for people affected by drug abuse.


Dr. Fernando Cano Valle, Mexican National Commission on Drug Addiction. The true proof does not consist in failure of drug treatment, but whether the person learns from his failure and moves forward.  In Mexico, 56.6% of prisoners reported using legal or illegal substances before committing their crime. 80% of men had no previous criminal convictions – this was 98% of women. Alcohol and drugs are among the factors that push people to commit criminal acts. Those most related to the commission of crime are alcohol, cocaine and meths. In Mexico, the key factors for implementing drug courts is political, international cooperation, the formation of networks with academic institutions, civil society, governmental ministries, etc. We have treatment programmes with a system of accreditation. We have a definition of the aims of the programme. There is a study of feasibility in Sonora and other areas. Our treatment court in Nuevo Leon is our most successful experience. We have four courts, and started in September 2009, with 61 participants. Our percentage is not enough, but we think that in the future the results will be much better. Prospectively, we would like to open more courts in Nuevo Leon, and wish to consolidate the model in the lead up to 2016.

George Williams, Vice President of Community and Government Affairs. Drug treatment through drug courts and in the community has been successful to achieve recovery and reduce drug-related crime. TASC was created by the White House in 1972. There are various TAC programmes across the USA of various sizes and shapes. The focus is on recovery. We work connectively around the world. When we get started, we need to identify the criminal justice system needs and relevant partners (e.g. judges), we review programme models based on science and effectiveness and at which point in the system (arrest, pretrial detention, sentencing, reentry?), we also do not start from scratch but build on existing evidence.

West Huddleston, Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. There have been interesting discussions on drug courts during the HLS and CND. What I want to add is what the scientific community thinks about drug courts. There is more evidence on drug courts in the USA than there has ever been. Drug courts work better than prison alone, or treatment alone. Drug courts can reduce crime in half, in increases school involvement. This is a new approach to crime. This works because we target individuals who are at risk of committing crime. They involved in crime young and continued as adults. We convened a large group of 41 professionals to discuss drug user management. We have the ability to ask ourselves where offenders end up. We evaluated the types of options within the alternative response to see which one was most effective as a response. What can police officers do to push offenders into alternatives to incarceration? There is much research on pre-trial options. We need to make them work together to build a continuum of criminal justice options.

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