Alberta announces new drug treatment court in Medicine Hat

Such courts aim to help those struggling with addiction break cycle of addiction-related offences

Alberta announces new drug treatment court in Medicine Hat
Medicine Hat will be among the next wave of cities in Alberta to get a new drug treatment court.

Alberta will open a new drug treatment court in Medicine Hat, which will offer those who commit non-violent offences with judicially-supervised addiction treatment and recovery.

The province’s drug treatment courts also provide access to drug testing, incentives, sanctions and social services support to help individuals struggling with addiction avoid reoffending and break the cycle of addiction-related offences. Ultimately, this initiative seeks to promote safety among communities in Alberta.

The province is presently operating drug treatment courts in Edmonton and Calgary and will open additional courts in Red Deer and Lethbridge by late 2021, as well as two more courts in locations which are currently still undecided. Part of the $20 million four-year investment devoted toward expanding this initiative will be utilized to double the total combined capacity of the Edmonton and Calgary drug treatment courts.

“The fundamental purpose of sentencing is to protect society and to contribute to respect for the law by imposing sanctions which include denouncing certain behaviour and deterring certain conduct,” said Derek G. Redman, chief judge of the Provincial Court of Alberta. Redman said that the drug treatment courts would help in rehabilitating offenders and in achieving the purposes of sentencing.

“A court that focuses on the root cause of a significant portion of our local crime and that endeavours to facilitate a change in lifestyle and attitude of individuals challenged by the abuse of drugs associated with it is a significant step toward benefiting not only the accused, but also the community as a whole,” said Eric D. Brooks, judge at the Provincial Court of Alberta.

Grace Froese, director for provincial drug court expansion and development at the Edmonton John Howard Society, said that the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a rise in drug use, relapses and overdose cases. Froese said that the expansion of drug treatment courts would ultimately help in saving lives.

The province has likewise announced a $50 million budget increase for the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams and their programs to target organized crime, with a portion of this additional funding going to the formation of a team tasked with investigating property crime motivated by the trade in illegal drugs.

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