Forensic treatment for offendersPage content: Community Offenders Advice & Treatment Service | Drink & Drug Driver Program | Drug Education for First Offenders Service | Intensive post-prison release drug treatment service | Diversion programs | Cannabis cautioning program | Children's Court clinic drug program | Court Referral & Evaluation for Drug Intervention & Treatment | Deferred sentencing | Drug diversion program | Rural Outreach Diversion Workers
Harm as a result of drug-related crime is caused to
- their families and
- the community.
The importance of reducing the harm associated with drug use is well recognised. The government has funded a range of forensic community treatment initiatives to assist offenders with community-based orders by targeting drug treatment options.
These treatment options attempt to tackle the drug problem from a health perspective and recognise the importance of making public drug treatment services available to community-based offenders.
COATS was established in November 1997 and is provided by the Australian Community Support Organisation (ACSO). It remains the largest of these forensic community drug and alcohol treatment initiatives in Victoria.
As a result of referral from the courts, police (via Direct Line) or the Parole Board, COATS undertakes
- an assessment
- provides an alcohol and drug treatment plan and
- purchases any necessary treatment from community-based alcohol and drug treatment agencies
for parolees and offenders who receive community based dispositions or a Combined Custody and Treatment Order (CCTO).
In exceptional cases, COATS can undertake pre-sentence assessments for the Court, particularly where the Court is considering a CCTO. COATS is also responsible for the brokerage, data collection and financial reporting of the Commonwealth Government’s National Illicit Drug Strategy (NIDS) Diversion Initiative.
COATS remains the largest of all Victoria’s treatment programs, with over 6000 offenders per annum either assessed or referred to treatment by COATS. The majority of these offenders are men aged in their twenties who are subject to a Community Based Order.
The Victorian Drink and Drug Driver Program comprises of a range of measures including attendance at an 8-hour education course and assessment for alcohol and other drug problems.
Not all offenders are required to attend all of the components of the program, as the circumstances for each offender will vary depending on the charges. However, offenders convicted of a drink or drug-driving offence should note that licence restoration is not automatic, as it is with speeding offences.
Offenders are advised to obtain a directory of Victorian Accredited Driver Education Programs and call one of the various agencies for advice. Copies of the directory are available from most courts, police stations and VicRoads offices.
The Drug Education for First Offenders Service, known as FOCiS, is an initiative established in June 1997.
The program, managed by Moreland Hall, provides drug education sessions for first time offenders found in possession of a small (non commercial) quantity of illicit drugs other than marijuana. The offender is released on an undertaking to attend the program as part of their conditions.
Upon completion of the education, the court will no longer deal with the matter. If the offender fails to attend scheduled sessions, a rebooking process is followed and attendance documented for the court. If the offender repeatedly fails to attend, a breach process may be evoked and the matter referred back to court.
The operation of the intensive post-prison release drug treatment service, known as Stepout, (established in October 1997 by Moreland Hall) is now operated by COATS. COATS has the role of assessment, referral and treatment brokerage for persons due for release from custody.
The service provides in-prison assessment and, where appropriate, intensive counselling and case management to people on release from prison who are high risk or for whom a further period of counselling and support will consolidate the outcomes of treatment received in prison.
Drug treatment services are brokered for all clients assessed, however it is often difficult to encourage offenders to attend treatment on a voluntary basis. COATS continue to promote the program on a statewide basis, with particular emphasis on the need for assertive follow up.
The joint Commonwealth and State Drug Diversion Initiative was established in November 2000. The Initiative comprises a comprehensive and integrated package of graduated programs designed to divert offenders whose drug use is a key factor of their criminality into drug education, assessment and treatment.
The six programs operating in Victoria target offenders for diversion into drug treatment by the police at the point of arrest and by the courts at either bail or sentencing.
The cannabis cautioning program is a police diversion program that involves the provision of a cautioning notice for simple use/possess cannabis offences to offenders 17 years and over. The offender must only be in possession of a small (non-trafficable) amount of cannabis, admit to the offence and consent to being cautioned.
A person can accumulate only two cautions. A voluntary cannabis education program is available to accompany the caution. This program is currently available in 15 locations across Victoria, in both metropolitan and rural areas and is also open to friends and family members.
The Children’s Court clinic drug program provides early intervention drug treatment for alleged young offenders who are engaged in problematic drug use, by facilitating contact with the Children’s Court drug clinician and drug treatment services upon referral from the Magistrate.
The program aims to:
- divert young offenders who have a drug problem from further involvement in the criminal justice process, through participation in drug treatment programs
- develop a commitment on the part of young drug users to harm minimisation practices and drug treatment
- reduce the risk of further criminal activity to support drug use.
The Children’s Court clinic drug program is a statewide service.
Where police apprehend and charge a person with an offence and it is clear that the person has an immediately presenting drug problem, police are able to refer to the CREDIT program as part of the bail proceedings.
Police refer the offender to a drug clinician based at the Magistrates Court and, where appropriate and the offender agrees, he or she is diverted into a recommended treatment regime by the Magistrate as a condition of bail.
The CREDIT program is currently operating in the following courts across Victoria:
- Melbourne Magistrates Court
- Sunshine Magistrates Court
- Dandenong Magistrates Court
- Geelong Magistrates Court
- Moe Magistrates Court
- Ringwood Magistrates Court
- Frankston Magistrates Court
- Heidelberg Magistrates Court
- Broadmeadows Magistrates Court
- Bendigo Magistrates Court
- Ballarat Magistrates Court.
The CREDIT program is open to all age groups and stages of drug use, and is open to first time offenders along with those with some previous criminal and/or drug use history. To be eligible for the CREDIT program, the offender must be
- charged with a non-violent offence
- have an illicit drug problem,
- be released on bail
- be initially bailed to a court where the CREDIT program operates and
- not subject to any other court order with a drug treatment component.
Deferred sentencing is an option for the Magistrate in determining disposition for an offender with an identified drug problem.
Sentencing can be deferred for up to six months with a specific condition to attend drug treatment. In order to be eligible for a Deferred sentence, a person must be
- aged between 17 and 25
- have a drug problem and
- be found guilty of an offence.
The Deferred sentence must be identified as being an appropriate sentencing option for the offence committed. Deferred sentencing is currently available in every Magistrates Court across Victoria.
People apprehended by the police for use or possession of an illicit drug other than cannabis may be offered a caution on the condition that they undertake a clinical drug assessment and attend at least one session of any prescribed drug treatment.
To be eligible for a caution under the drug diversion program, the person must be
- over 10 years of age
- be arrested for the use and/or possession of a small (non-trafficable) amount of illicit drugs other than cannabis
- admit to the offence and
- not have received any more than one previous cautioning notice (including cannabis caution).
A drug diversion caution is offered to eligible offenders on the condition that they undertake a clinical drug assessment and enter any prescribed drug treatment. The drug diversion caution no longer applies when the offender has attended both the clinical drug assessment and one treatment session.
The Rural Outreach Diversion Worker (RODW) service was established in 2002 to provide a service tailored to rural needs in areas across Victoria where offenders do not have access to the CREDIT program described above. The role of the RODW is to provide a link between the community, police, courts and the drug treatment service system.
These workers primarily target young offenders aged below 25 years, however they are also available to older offenders assessed as being appropriate for an outreach program.
The target group is offenders who are apprehended for a non-drug related offence and thus not eligible to receive a caution and participate in the Drug Diversion Program, but whose drug use is a clear factor in their criminality.