Alternatives to incarceration: When are they useful, how much do they cost and how can member states best implement and monitor them?

Organized by the Governments of Argentina, Guyana and the United States of America, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section, and the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission of the Organization of American States

Guyana: because of its geography, Guyana is seen as an international drug trade point with its access to Africa, North America and Europe. Of major concern is the impact that illicit drugs have on our youths, and there are incidences of drug use in schools and some have been arrested for trafficking. Widespread drug use and binge drinking has been found amongst children as young as 11. In 1980 – the joint operational plan to combat drugs in Guyana was set out and the national drug strategy master plan 2016/20 – a multidisciplinary and holistic approach. An attempt at supply reduction has involved 10 billion dollars of narcotics being kept of the street in 2017 alone, increased convictions has led to prison overcrowding, breakouts and arson. From 98” to “17 there has been over 100 breakouts. Guyana has come to the conclusion that a public health approach would be better suited to reducing demand.We are now pursuing alternative incarceration strategies as put in our master plan

Executive Secretary of the inter-American drug abuse control commission: (…) interest in alternative incarceration has increased as incarceration across the northern hemisphere has also increased, they facilitate rehabilitation and social integration, therapeutic justice programmes, family courts and others are defined as alternatives. At the request of many nations we offer assistance such as monitoring and evaluation services and publications on best practices. Challenges are often intensified in relation to alternative incarceration due to multiple agencies being involved when dealing with issues. On the importance of data collection – it is highly important to have good data – garbage in, garbage out as they say. We have found that recognising differences between agencies and individuals is a good way of bridging. There is a need to constantly talk to officials so that they can come to understand the services and language used in

Argentina: One of the issues I will tell you about is how we use an integrative approach when dealing with drug use – alternatives to incarceration is something recent in Argentina, we have a plan between supply and demand we work together at the ministry of security, justice and health and the principles that guide us include, gender, community, science, intersectionality, we want evidence to be based on science. We have 40 case studies taking part looking at alternative incarceration and we have a therapeutic coach and team who are specialised, psychologists, social workers and the public ministry of defence works with us in order to kick start our programmes – participation is always voluntary, and diagnoses includes a treatment plan for individuals. (…)

Senior international drug policy advisor (UNODCP): All of us are here seeking to improve the safety of our communities in the face of addiction. I’m going to focus on drug courts. Drug courts are not the pathway for all people with drug consumption issues but can be bridges between the criminal justice and public health systems, the us has over 3,000 of them and research shows that individuals receiving targeted help return to their communities with new management and life skills. Successful courts have strong relationships with drug treatment centres. Diversion or deflection programmes that immediately refer them to treatment when picked up by the law, a lot of the time stopping individuals from even getting arrested. We believe all of us benefit from exchanging experiences and research so would like the thank the UNODC.

USA: For many years trying to reach people in the criminal justice system was a source of pain but drug courts changed that, and they work best for individuals with long sentences ahead because of their drug consumptions after 30 years we have found they improve lives, reduce crime and save money. An individual in a drug court is more likely to access treatment than in any other law setting. As a treatment provider let me tell you drug courts are one of the best public health responses to drug addiction.

UNODC drug prevention and health branch:  everyone wants to change prisons for drug users, individuals are bringing lots of suffering and need not be punished. It costs around $24,000 to incarcerate an individual for a year and $4700 for treatment and these are conservative numbers. We have a great model with drug courts (…) we have been mapping treatment services and monitoring the number of people in contact with the justice system receiving treatment. Stress is one of the main components of incarceration and will undermine our capacity for control and emotion and aggravates the condition of these patients, it is counter intuitive. Thank you for your attention.

 

Moderator: ‘thanks speakers and listeners’

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