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Don't smack, smoke or bank drug dough

Don't smack, smoke or bank drug dough
Candor Trust

Phil Goff is full of bluster about clobbering gangs, claiming that Labour has not one but 2 important anti drug bills before Parliament, having now recognised methamphetamine is a critical issue, The poor mathematician has omitted the taboo drug driving bill from his (mis)count, and seemingly refers only to the bills tailored to ensure that only smart and best dressed (or best advised) drug dealers will continue to prosper.

Meanwhile, beyond noisy all pervasive commands not to smack, smoke or create emissions there has been inaudible comment or sane proactivity from the State if you are down the supply chain, and lumbered with mind warping types of addictions. Or are stabbed, robbed, shot or perhaps car-slain by some-one who is drunk or high.

Not a problem apparently - Mr Goff says legislation before the house will strengthen powers to confiscate the proceeds of crime and boost the penalties for being involved in organised crime. Hoorah, a windfall for Government (so the better that dealers do, the better for the taxman), and of course it is perfectly sensible to implement deterrent rather than preventive policies.

This package really offers approximately zero hope of reducing chances of victimisation by drug offenders crime - and it is disappointing that Mr Goff has built a long history of resolutely rejected initiatives that realistically can. He seems blissfully unawares that his parties handiwork has given Kiwis over to a second world road slaughter toll now factors alcohol or other drugs in half of all fatal crashes.

This is but one indicator of failure in their most critical of social tasks of creating a safe civil culture - atop road violence the general offending statistics also show that nothing has changed since the 2001 Survey of Crime Victims, which found 30-40% of NZers who had experienced violence at the hands someone they knew, said the assailant was affected by alcohol or drugs.

The failure, now producing last minute pre-election resolutions from all pollies competing for the tough guy role hasn't been through lack of opportunity. Faced with railing about these drug related crime statistics, the Hon Phil Goff advised the Ministerial Committee on Drug Policy in 2003 that he'd declined a proposal by Judge Walker to institute a adult drug court, as the Christchurch Youth drug Court had not yet been evaluated. Tui!

Over 2,000 drug courts which do deal with alcohol are in existence or being planned in the U.S. And after a decade of rigorous drug court research, scientists at the Treatment Research Institute (University of Pennsylvania) have concluded that, "drug courts outperform virtually all other strategies that have been used with drug-involved offenders"
Evaluations from the State of Oregon and Dallas County, Texas, have shown that for every dollar invested in drug court, nearly ten dollars are saved by corrections on imprisonment costs. Drug courts are also reporting 50% and greater reductions in drink and drugged driving recidivism (Guidelines for Sentencing DUI Offenders, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation).

An evaluation in Yellowstone County, Montana conservatively shows that for every dollar invested in Family Dependency Treatment Court, there is a $4.74 cost savings or offset in costs to the system and community such as foster care, and medical treatment for abused or neglected children such as are hurt in DUI crashes caused by parents.

DUI / drug Courts incorporate frequent contact with judge; intensive supervision probation; treatment including tribal wellness models; random alcohol/drug testing; lifestyle changes; and positive reinforcement. And surprise surprise they work, even if all comers may not be keen as mustard to participate - some even preferring the option of jail to rehabilitation.

What does not work is the strategy of heavy and exclusive focus on "supply reduction".
Government has to know it's fixation on closing down P labs isn't most helpful in the North Island, where markets are already established. Crime labs are under-resourced to conduct even basic homicide investigations due to wasteful clan lab work.

Dated July 2007, an independent report provided to Government (Using an Outcome-Based Framework to Analyse Drug Policies upon Methamphetamine Markets: A Comparison of New Zealand and Oregon) reviewed the impact of the 2003 Methamphetamine Action Plan, and revealed some gems that should give pause to any local Policy and Police players.

No tangible benefits to the massive investment in attacking P supply were described, despite an in depth analyses of "anti" supply activities. Since 2003 purity has been consistently high and prices have dropped not raised as intended. Clan labs have been found in most regions at consistent rates, and strong law enforcement interventions with a 5 year doubling of non cannabis drug convictions does not seem to how reducing use. The conviction rate for hard drugs has dropped from 80% in 1990 to 58% by 2005, perhaps as greater jail terms from charges result in greater defense efforts being put up

The report concluded that "contrary to expectations, the supply-side intervention activities had no measurable impact upon the purity levels of the methamphetamine market. Thus, market availability of methamphetamine remained strong (in NZ)". And further noted that the lack of drug Courts in comparison to Orregon means NZ society misses on the cost savings in prevention of future crime etc of between $2,300 to $5,100 per participant, seen there..

The recommendation was to consider drug courts and to provide legally mandated drug treatment, including random drug testing; basing treatment on international best practices that addresses criminal thinking, is culturally specific, and is appropriate to offenders at various stages of their criminal careers.

It is an appalling thing that while NZ is amok with child abuse, street violence ranging from stabbings to intoxicated driving, and among the the highest drug abuse in the world, nothing that is evidence based is being done or proposed to salvage the drug / alcohol abusers or save future victims in their sphere of destructiveness.

Generation of alcohol and tobacco hysteria, complemented by anti-smacking side shows, and generous wallops of ineffective supply side interventions appear to have turned the Kiwi drug policy field into a curiously ineffective circus freak. But out in the wider "real world", drug driving laws and drug courts are effective focuses for both demand reduction among problem users and harm reduction to society in general.

Both "upgrades" have been recommended repeatedly by experts and grassroots movements here. But still no Kiwi leader has pulled finger to produce good policy that can offer NZ relief from its ghettoisation - by what obviously constitutes exceptionally high substance related criminality..


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