By S. Ryan Quigley
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Alan Smith stole a guitar for drug money. He got caught. He stole $60 worth of meat. He got caught. He tried to steal DVDs. He got caught.
Smith (his name has been changed to protect his identity) in a Summerside Provincial Court where he was sentenced to 10 days in a jail, he served seven.
Smith’s not alone.
A report in 1997 by the National Crime Prevention Council found 74.3 per cent of those jailed have previous criminal records. Thirty-seven per cent were users of cocaine and heroin and 52 per cent were drunk or high at the time of their crime.
Smith served his time, but that didn’t stop his habit.
The 21-year-old didn’t want to go back to prison, but it didn’t stop him from doing drugs. Treatment might have, he said.
“Rehab would’ve helped me out a lot. It would have cleared my head and got me out of that function.”
Toronto has a drug treatment court. It deals with charges where the accused committed small crimes involving possession of drugs or trying to get money for drugs.
Rudy Cocolo, a liaison for the drug treatment court, said they will refuse to handle someone with a violent history or violent charges and those who have major trafficking charges.
“If they do complete the program, then instead of a sentence of time, they will get probation.”
The program is a minimum of 10 months, with the person required to attend five group meetings a week and court two times, live in court-assigned housing provided by the Salvation Army if they don’t have a home, submit to random urine screens and obtain a job or become a student, said Cocolo.
“It’s kind of like we’re rehabbing these individuals and making them a productive member of society.”
The person will be finished of the program if they have three months sober and have either a job, volunteering full-time or is in school and will then serve probation, he said.
“(Ten months graduation) doesn’t happen that often. I’ve seen someone graduate after five years.”
There have been a lot of success in the program since its beginnings, said Coloco.
“A lot of individuals who you would never think would’ve graduated when you first meet them.”
They have had people who’ve used crack for 30 years, he said.
“They make a miraculous turn around and they end up being clean for six-months and you see the difference. The way they look, the way they act, the way they talk.”
Brenda Picard, a Legal Aid attorney in Charlottetown, said anything that can help her clients out would be a good thing.
“Anything that would provide additional resources to people who are struggling with addictions and criminal activity is beneficial to those people and the community as a whole.”
The cost of jailing someone is great and something that would address the issues of those in custody would be good for the community, she said.
“Whether we need a separate court to do that, I don’t know, but we certainly would need significant other resources for supervision and counselling.”
After Smith faced an assault charge, he went to counselling and was given 12 months probation.
He moved to Saskatchewan with his girlfriend and works at a moving company. Smith is 12 months clean of drugs and off of his probation.
“And now I’m trying to come around and never go back to that horrible place ever again.”
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