Bulgaria: This topic fully corresponds to the UNGASS document of 2016. It recognises drugs users’ right to health, but many drug users have been imprisoned anyway. Member states have been using alternatives to punishment at many different stages. Most of the measures available are not used during the first stages. It needs to favour drug addicts and society at the same time. Alternatives to punishment have greater potential to reduce harm and damage, but also helps them overcome their addiction. Work is also being done deal with stigma towards service providers. It is important to strengthen international cooperation and share best practice.
EMCDDA: Drug users can be someone very close to us, and there is no benefit and no evidence that these people with health problem to face criminal sanctions. We don’t see anything in the data to suggest that penalties affect behaviours – people continue to use drugs. We might want to consider changing the behaviour and it is enshrined in the conventions. We prefer drug users on to be seen by a doctor, not a police officer (they have a different job). The EU are the only ones who are pushing for alternatives to ‘coercion’. We want a problem drug users to see a doctor, not a police officer who may not understand the condition.
UNODC Justice Section: Many people with drug use disorders have had contact with the criminal justice system, and vice versa. Providing drug dependence treatment is an effective public health strategy. And applying alternative to conviction or punishment is an effective criminal justice strategy. We have provided an overview of options for policy maker with a range of diversion options to treatment as an alternative to conviction of punishment. It’s not just after a sentence, but there’s a lot that can be done during the whole process. Recovery from a drug use disorder is a process, and it’s no wonder why the criminal justice system will come into contact with the same person multiple times, and it’s important from them to know that.
National Coalition Against Addictions In Mexico: Mexico has come from being a supplier country, to now being a consumer country. ALcohol use from people aged 12-65 increased by over 60% in 2016. Use of cannabis has increased among young people. Heroin use has remained stable since 2008. 80% of those that are arrested in local jurisdictions are first time offenders. Costs have been high for all, and pushed us to look for other policies that promote the wellbeing of people. It is a matter of high priority that demands the effective and timely solutions. The new approach is based on comprehensive public health models. The model of therapeutic justice focuses on the therapeutic approach for the drug use and an alternative t prosecution. The aim to give user integral care, and reduce drug use. The local government and community work together, for the benefit of the community.
Inter-American Drug Abuse Commision: the aim is the social reintegration of the individual, reduction of prison population, and the reduction of violence. What makes disproportionality a more pressing issue, incarceration furthers their stigma and hampers their social reintegration. Serious debates are underway in exploring alternative measures outside the criminal justice system. We continue to promote dialogue in this area, now 14 countries in the americas have these programs, initially for adults but now in juveniles. Treatment options should always be options – they should never be force to take part in treatment, but they should always be an option. We must strengthen monitoring of these programs and evaluation.
NGO: Treatment as an alternative to punishment has been endorsed by UN agencies, and other leading voices such as the British Medical Journal. I was delighted to hear the General Secretary and calling for decriminalisation as in Portugal. The criminal justice system won’t reduce drug related deaths or increase treatment. We need quality based interventions so users get the help they need when they need it. The Portuguese model moves the offence from a criminal one, to an administrative one. It has been described as a resounding success and a failure. Academic evaluation, however, supports this model. Decriminalisation did not result in increased use, or deaths. Drug policies must be complete packages if they are to work. Almost half of those serving prison sentences in Norway have a drug dependence problem. Most people in prison are not there for a small drug offence alone, so decriminalisation may not produce a massive reduction in the prison population. Most approaches that have an effect on drug dependent populations, it also has an effect on the imprisoned drug dependent populations.