The Crown counsel acts as “gatekeeper” (Luedtke et al., 2000:7), and there is no avenue for appeal. “While the judge has ultimate decision making power to exclude an individual that the Crown (and treatment providers) deem to be eligible, if the Crown decides to deny an application, that decision can not be reviewed by the judge” (Bentley 2001:17). In this way, it is up to the prosecutor alone, as representative of the state, first to decide whether to proceed with a charge, and then whether to divert that charge out of the criminal justice system. The judge, however, then has the authority to vet applicants, “and what he’s looking for [in a DTC participant], more than anything else, is a desire to change” (Gardner 2003b:5).
Treatment consists of two phases. The first, which takes an estimated eight to fifteen months, “…demands that participants be free of crack/cocaine and/or heroin before completion” (Bentley, 2001:22). It is at the discretion of the DTC whether occasional use of marijuana and/or alcohol will be an impediment to graduation from Phase 1. Methadone is also considered an “effective treatment option that should not [be] excluded simply because it does not fit the model of complete abstinence” (Bentley, 2001:23). This phase is required of both those participants who were required to plead guilty prior to admission, and those who were not (defined as those whose “offence is one [not] ordinarily punishable by more than three months imprisonment”) (Bentley, 2001:9).
The second phase, for those who were required to plead guilty prior to admission to the DTC programme (i.e., those “charged with an offence that would attract a custodial sentence in the range of nine months or less”) (Bentley 2001:10)), consists of an additional six to twelve month probationary period requiring continued substance abuse counselling and appearances at the DTC. An interim evaluation of the Toronto DTC concluded that the majority of “offenders admitted to the drug treatment court are Track II (post-plea) or higher risk offenders, with problems related to cocaine/crack use” (James and Sawka, 2000:6).
According to a National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS) evaluation, of the 284 clients referred to the Toronto DTC in its first two years of operation, 234 chose to participate in the program. Of those, 16.7% are ongoing, 13.7% are graduates, and the majority, 67.1%, have been expelled. Finally, “[a]ll DTC team members believed the DTC to be a success and were of the opinion that the DTC program worked as an effective alternative to incarceration,” although “[t]he data does not enable comparison of the performance and outcomes of Drug Treatment Court, nor enable the comparison of the participants with those of non participants who have similar and relevant characteristics (current charges, prior record, drug use)” (NCPS, no date:4).
Vancouver’s Drug Treatment Court
The Vancouver DTC is newer than its Toronto counterpart, and reflects the drug use patterns specific to the city: “Vancouver is a port city with a long time heroin problem. Cocaine and crack injection is slowly displacing heroin. Hard core users are well established in a containment area of about 16 blocks known as Downtown East Side" (FNDTCW, 2001:13).
A recent article in the Vancouver Sun provided some details particular to the Vancouver DTC, currently open only to addicted traffickers:
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