Millions of people across the country struggle with addictions every day – it crosses all social boundaries. Too often, people are led to crime in order to feed their addictions. But innovative Drug Treatment Courts are making a difference, by guiding people trapped in this cycle of crime and addiction to take on the difficult challenge of changing their lives.
“A lot of the graduates say that going through Drug Treatment Court is harder than going to jail,” says Legal Aid Alberta staff duty counsel lawyer Sonia Haer, who represents clients at the Edmonton Drug Treatment Court.
She adds that the approach works: One study found that as of 2018, more than 70 per cent of graduates from the Edmonton and Calgary programs had no new criminal convictions. Another study showed that Drug Treatment Court saves society between $15 million and $20 million per year in the cost of stolen goods alone.
And in the past 12 months, she notes, Alberta has opened new drug treatment courts in Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Red Deer and Grande Prairie.
Haer says members of the Drug Treatment Court teams see people who embark on “a hard, beautiful journey.”
“People start being present in their own lives – it’s amazing to witness.”
She recounts the story of one client who recently took his young daughter trick-or-treating on Halloween.
“It was the first time he was sober for Halloween and he took her trick or treating, and he was so happy to be there for her, to be present in the moment, to be her safe place. He now understood what a gift he has. He was so grateful and we are so proud of all his hard work. It’s remarkable for us to be a small part of their lives.”
Previously on Ask A Lawyer:
Ask A Lawyer: Tips for co-parenting and holiday visits
Ask A Lawyer: Duty Counsel Day and the impact of duty counsel lawyers
Ask A Lawyer: The Vital Role of Duty Counsel
Ask A Lawyer: Indigenous Courts and Restorative Justice
Ask A Lawyer: Mental Health and the Law
Ask A Lawyer: Immigration and Refugee Claims During the Pandemic
Ask A Lawyer: Teenagers and Crime
Ask A Lawyer: Child Support Payments