Studies reveal the ineffectiveness of long prison sentences for nonviolent drug law offenders. The capacity of the judicial system is stretched far beyond its limits, resulting in slow procedures, lengthy pretrial custody and overcrowded prisons. Referral schemes or specialized drug courts are introduced offering offenders a choice between prison and treatment. The main objective is crime reduction by providing nonviolent offenders the chance to escape the vicious drugs-crime-prison cycle.

  • Drugs, crime and punishment

    Proportionality of sentencing for drug offences
    Gloria Lai
    Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 20
    June 2012

    Proportionality is one of the key principles of the rule of law aiming to protect people from cruel or inhumane treatment. The principle has been established in interna­tional and regional human rights agree­ments and many countries have adopted reflections of it in their constitution or penal code. Its applica­tion to drug-related offences is firstly the responsibility of the legislators, in defining the level of penalisa­tion of certain behaviours. The level of penalisation should be deter­mined according to the severity of damage that a certain behaviour causes to others or to society.

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  • Cause for Alarm

    The Incarceration of Women for Drug Offences in Europe and Central Asia, and the need for Legislative and Sentencing Reform
    Eka Iakobishvili
    Harm Reduction International (HRI)
    March 2012

    The new report is the first to calculate the total number of females in prisons on drug offences in Europe and Central Asia. It provides an analysis of developments related to women drug offending and the criminal justice system in Europe and Central Asia, and also largely focuses on numbers of women convicted for drug offending (violation of drug laws) that are in prisons.

    application-pdfDownload this report in full (PDF, 966 KB)

  • Improving community health and safety in Canada through evidence-based policies on illegal drugs

    Evan Wood, Moira McKinnon, Robert Strang & Perry R. Kendall
    Open Medicine Vol 6, No 1 (2012)
    March 2012

    The use of illegal drugs remains a serious threat to community health. However, despite the substantial social costs attributable to illegal drugs, a well-described discordance between scientific evidence and policy exists in this area, such that most resources go to drug law enforcement activities that have not been well evaluated. When the Office of the Auditor General of Canada last reviewed the country’s drug strategy, in 2001, it estimated that of the $454 million spent annually on efforts to control illicit drugs, $426 million (93.8%) was devoted to law enforcement.

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  • End the War on Drugs

    Global Commission on Drug Policy calls for reform of international drug control

    On June 2, 2011, the Global Commission on Drug Policy presented its report in New York, calling to break the taboo on debate and reform of international drug control policies. The high-profile panel calls the global war on drugs a failure and recommends a paradigm shift towards harm reduction, decriminalization and legal regulation of cannabis. TNI has been closely involved in the initiative and its Latin American predecessor in an advisory capacity. Martin Jelsma of TNI’s drugs policy programme wrote a background paper for the Commission’s meeting in Geneva earlier this year: The development of international drug control: lessons learned and strategic challenges for the future.

  • Response from IDPC to the Sentencing Council for England and Wales Consultation on the Drug Offences Guideline

    Mike Trace
    International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC)
    June 2011

    The Sentencing Council for England and Wales initiated a consultation process in order to produce definitive sentencing guidelines for drugs offences for the UK in the future. In order to feed into this process, IDPC, in collaboration with TNI, held an Expert seminar on proportionality in sentencing for drug offences, on 20th May 2011, in London, UK. The seminar was an important gathering of international experts on the subject of proportionality and provided a space for fruitful and in depth discussions on sentencing experiences from around the world. A draft report of the meeting was sent to the Sentencing Council as part of the consultation process on 20th June.

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  • Conviction by Numbers

    Threshold Quantities for Drug Policy
    Genevieve Harris
    Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 14
    May 2011

    Threshold quantities (TQs) for drug law and policy are being experimented with across many jurisdictions. States seem attracted to their apparent simplicity and use them to determine, for example, whether: a possession or supply offence is made out (e.g. Greece); a matter should be diverted away from the criminal justice system (e.g. Portugal); or a case should fall within a certain sentencing range (e.g. UK).

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  • Expert Seminar on Proportionality of Sentencing for Drug Offences

    Transnational Institute (TNI), International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) & Sentencing Council
    May 20, 2011

    There has in recent years been a renewed interest in the principle of proportionality in sentencing policy for drug offences. There has been official analysis of the issue by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and several national initiatives that have inscribed a requirement for proportionality when sentencing in statute or penal code, asserted it through the courts, or, as with the UK Consultation on sentencing for drug offences by the Sentencing Council of England and Wales, are continuing to explore the concept through policy processes.

    application-pdfDownload the report (PDF)

  • Controlling and Regulating Drugs

    A Review of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.
    New Zealand Law Commission
    April 2011

    The New Zealand Law Commission was asked to address the efficacy of the Misuse of Drugs Act in reducing the demand for, and supply of, drugs prohibited under the International Drug Conventions. The Commission has recommended the existing Act be repealed and replaced by a new Act administered by the Ministry of Health. Justice Hammond said the thrust of the proposed new Act is to facilitate a more effective interface between the criminal justice and health sectors: “We need to recognise that the abuse of drugs is both a health and a criminal public policy problem.”

    application-pdfControlling and Regulating Drugs: A Review of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 - Part 1
    application-pdfControlling and Regulating Drugs: A Review of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 - Part 2

  • Alternatives to Imprisonment

    Community Views in Victoria
    Karen Gelb
    Sentencing Advisory Council
    State Governmnent of Victoria
    March 2011

    The Sentencing Advisory Council has released a report on community attitudes towards the use of alternatives to imprisonment in Victoria. The report is based on the Victorian component of a national survey of public attitudes to sentencing, supported by the Australian Research Council. Survey participants were asked about the use of alternatives to imprisonment as a way of addressing the increasing number of people in prison and as a way of dealing with certain types of offenders. The prison alternatives suggested to participants included supervision, counselling, treatment and community work.

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  • Addicted to Courts

    How a Growing Dependence on Drug Courts Impacts People and Communities
    Nastassia Walsh
    Justice Policy Institute
    March 2011

    America’s growing reliance on drug courts is an ineffective allocation of scarce state resources. Drug courts can needlessly widen the net of criminal justice involvement, and cannot replace the need for improved treatment services in the community. Of the nearly 8 million people in the U.S. reporting needing treatment for drug use, less than one fourth of people classified with substance abuse or a dependence on drugs and/or alcohol receives treatment, and for those who do receive treatment, over 37 percent are referred by the criminal justice system.

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