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.

  • Drug Courts Are Not the Answer

    Toward a Health-Centered Approach to Drug Use
    Drug Policy Alliance
    March 2011

    Drug Courts are Not the Answer finds that drug courts are an ineffective and inappropriate response to drug law violations. Many, all the way up to the Obama administration, consider the continued proliferation of drug courts to be a viable solution to the problem of mass arrests and incarceration of people who use drugs. Yet this report finds that drug courts do not reduce incarceration, do not improve public safety, and do not save money when compared to the wholly punitive model they seek to replace. The report calls for reducing the role of the criminal justice system in responding to drug use by expanding demonstrated health approaches, including harm reduction and drug treatment, and by working toward the removal of criminal penalties for drug use.

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  • A Matter of Substance

    Fighting Drug Trafficking With a Substance–Oriented Approach
    Ernestien Jensema
    Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 7
    July 2010

    This paper discusses the “substance-oriented approach” Dutch authorities implemented to to scare off potential small-scale cocaine smugglers. The focus was on the drugs, rather than the couriers, and on incapacitating the smuggling route, rather than deterrence by incarceration.

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  • Sentencing for Drug Offences in England and Wales

    Law Reform without Legislative Reform
    Genevieve Harris
    Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 5
    June 2010

    Sentencing for drug offences in England and Wales has recently undergone a wide-sweeping review and public consultation. The purpose of this report is to examine and evaluate this mechanism for law reform, without the need for legislative reform, and to consider the specific discussion around sentencing for drug offences which it has led to.

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  • Sentencing for Drug Offences

    Advice to the Sentencing Guidelines Council
    Sentencing Advisory Panel
    March 2010

    In determining the seriousness of a drug offence the courts should focus on the quantity of the drug involved (or the scale of the operation) and the role of the offender; the Panel advises a starting point of 12 years custody for the most serious cases. Offences will be aggravated where offenders used a young person as a courier, supplied or offered to supply close to schools, targeted premises used by vulnerable people or supplied to prisoners.

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  • Drug offences: sentencing and other outcomes

    European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)
    November 2009

    The sentences that offenders receive for drug law violations across the European Union are examined for the first time in this ‘Selected issue’. By analysing the most recent year’s statistics, this report attempts to answer the question: What is the most likely outcome for an offender after being stopped by police for a drug law offence of use or personal possession, or supply or trafficking? 

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  • Towards Effective Sentencing

    House of Commons Justice Committee
    July 2008

    The purpose of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 in the United Kingdom was to provide overall structure and clarity to sentencing in England and Wales by reserving prison for the most dangerous offenders, while moving lower level offenders away from short prison sentences into robust and rehabilitative community punishments.

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  • Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Drug Offences

    Why Everyone Loses
    Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
    April 2006

    The use of illegal drugs is often associated with a wide range of health, social and community problems, substantial drug-related crime, and stigma and marginalization of people who use drugs. In response, policy-makers have relied heavily on law enforcement, despite evidence that certain law enforcement practices actually worsen the impact of drug use on individuals and communities, and sometimes lead to human rights violations.

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  • The New York state adult drug court evaluation

    Policies, Participants and Impacts
    Michael Rempel et. al.
    Center for Court Innovation
    Submitted to the New York State Unified Court System and the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance
    October 2003

    By combining drug treatment with ongoing judicial supervision, drug courts seek to break the cycle of addiction, crime, and repeat incarceration. While practice varies widely from state to state (and county to county), the outlines of the drug court model are clear: addicted offenders are linked to treatment; their progress is monitored by a drug court team composed of the judge, attorneys, and program staff; participants engage in direct interaction with the judge, who responds to progress and setbacks with a range of rewards and sanctions; and successful participants generally have the charges against them dismissed or reduced, while those who fail receive jail or prison sentences.

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