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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Drug courts will both contain and reduce the rate of substance abuse

Users will face the law, all the while benefiting from the expertise and compassion of theses lovingly strict rehabilitation programmes

Unlike in regular courts, drug courts wipe criminal records clean once offenders graduate from the rehabilitation programme. Daniel Acker / Bloomberg
Unlike in regular courts, drug courts wipe criminal records clean once offenders graduate from the rehabilitation programme. Daniel Acker / Bloomberg

Abu Dhabi is considering the introduction of special “drug courts” that deal solely with the cases of drug offenders as part of efforts to improve treatment plans and long-term outcomes.

Drug courts were established in the United States at the end of the 1980s in Florida and were the direct result of high relapse rates among drug abusers.

In addition, offenders who were handed their sentences in regular courts would have it on their criminal records, thereby ruining their chances of getting jobs and housing. Lack of employment prospects and the shame of rejection, of course, created the perfect fertile ground for drug abusers to relapse. In drugs courts, however, charges are dismissed upon completion of the programme.

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Thus, the key word when thinking of drug courts is: incentive. Just like any other court, offenders face the consequences of their bad deeds, but here, they are given an ultimatum: get clean or get behind bars. This essentially means that these courts are courts of compassion that take addiction into account.

The other key word is: pragmatism. We cannot ostracise those whose actions are questionable, but they can be helped. Families who feel the social embarrassment of this addiction can ensure they have the support they need without having to live with the perils of addiction for so long. A tight leash is kept on rehab inmates, who undergo weekly drug testing to be reminded of the legal consequences of relapsing and who, on the other hand, also receive incentive for good behaviour.

In short, the introduction of drug courts will mark a turning point in the containment and reduction of drug abuse given their comprehensive and specialised approach.

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