July 28, 2014
As the newly elected President of NADCP, I presented at the United Nations Headquarters as well as the U.N. Headquarters in N.Y.C. and the Vienna Campus on several occasions in the 1990’s (publishing a paper on the development of International Drug Courts, “American Drug Courts: A Common Sense Approach to the Drug-using Offender” distributed by my U.N. hosts). I had the good fortune to be invited to a Conference in New Delhi, where U.N. policy was to be drafted for the year 2000 “United Nations Conference on the Global Drug problem”. Though the drafting of the resolution was difficult (and even undemocratic), it ultimately included a section in the policy statement approving court-ordered treatment as an alternative to incarceration (including drug courts).
In 1998, I was asked to assist in the formation of Drug Courts in the Pacific region. I flew to Guam to make a series of presentations to Asian and Pacific Islander criminal justice leaders at a Conference on Drug Abuse, and met with judges who were considering the development of local drug court models. After visiting Guam, I continued on to Australia, where I spent a week meeting with officials from relevant criminal justice and public health agencies, (including the New South Wales Prime Minister and his Cabinet). I can say that the Australians picked up on the drug court idea quickly and instituted drug courts with remarkable speed and effectiveness.
What was in many ways unique about the Australian approach to Drug Courts was their extraordinary collaborative approach and their understanding of the drug court’s role as an adjunct or tool of the public health system in dealing with drug addicted offenders charged with serious criminal offenses. There was little reluctance to engage heroin addicted home burglars in the Sydney Drug Court nor to see the process as mainly a therapeutic rather than a punitive system (something we still struggle with in the U.S.).
The New South Wales Drug Court Act of 1998, was passed shortly after my initial trip to Australia, and the Sydney Drug Court was the first drug court of its type initiated in Australia. When I returned for further consultations and a conference in Western Australia the following year, I found a thriving drug court in Sydney, working with the high risk offenders that drug courts are designed for. The Australians were so pleased with their drug court, that other drug courts were already being planned. It has occurred to me that the Australian criminal justice system was as successful as it was because the Australians shared a common english criminal justice tradition, a similar western culture, and the technical, treatment and rehabilitation resources required by an American Drug Court, (something we would not see in many other Asian nations).