The goals of Drug Treatment Court of Vancouver (DTCV) are to:
- have a participant achieve and maintain abstinence from illegal drugs;
- improve a participant’s physical, emotional and mental health and well-being; and
- improve a participant’s housing, life skills, employment and education.
These concrete steps all serve to achieve the overarching objective of enhancing public safety and protecting the public by reducing or eliminating future criminal offending and contact with the criminal justice system.
The success of DTCV was recognized in an evaluation by Dr. Julian Somers of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University. His analysis showed that drug-related recidivism of DTCV participants was reduced by 56% over a two-year period and overall criminal re-offending was lowered by 35%, even though at least 50% of the participants had been considered to be at “severe” risk to re-offend.
To ensure the DTCV is understood by the community and responsive to its needs, the Court has a Community Advisory Committee with representatives from local businesses and community nonprofit organizations, as well as other stakeholders. This committee meets quarterly and provides the opportunity for a free exchange between the various groups and to address any concerns.
An accused person who applies to DTCV is screened by experienced DTCV federal or provincial Crown prosecutors to determine if the applicant is eligible for the Court’s program. If eligible, the participant enters the program by pleading guilty to the offence(s) charged.
The participant will be under strict bail conditions, which include reporting to court on a regular basis, random urine testing to ensure compliance, as well as taking part in a minimum 14-month intensive day treatment program through the Drug Court Treatment and Resource Centre (DCTRC) located outside of the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. This four-phase treatment program is offered Monday through Friday by an integrated team of probation officers, addiction counsellors, physicians, health care workers, and an employment assistance worker.
The DCTRC staff offer a broad range of services which address the participants’ complex needs, including addictions treatment, health care, psychiatric care, housing, financial assistance, life skills training, education and leisure activities.
A key component of the Court’s program is the regularly scheduled appearance by the participants before the supervising DTCV judge. The judge gives incentives for progress and sanctions for lack of compliance with the program. A participant will graduate from the program if they abstain from illegal drugs for a minimum of three consecutive months immediately preceding graduation; engage in secure employment, training or volunteering; live in stable, approved housing; and have not been charged with a new offence in the six months immediately preceding graduation.
A graduation ceremony occurs in open Court and is witnessed by the other DTCV participants and team members. The graduate receives a graduation certificate and is sentenced to a non-custodial sentence.
Modelled after similar courts in the United States, the DTCV was the second court of its kind to open in Canada. It opened on December 4, 2001 and was created, in part, as a response to the well-documented need to address the deaths and other associated major health issues (such as HIV/AIDS), which were rampant in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, due to the illegal drug trade.
The Court recognized that a new approach to the prosecution and sentencing of drug-addicted offenders was needed; otherwise the “revolving door” of crime would continue to plague both the offenders and the community at large. The idea was that if the root cause of the street crime – drug addiction – is addressed, it should result in a reduction in criminal offending.
Provincial Court Judge Jane Godfrey was the first dedicated judge to preside over DTCV. She steered it successfully through its first four years when it was still a “pilot project” and beyond. The current DTCV owes a tremendous debt to Judge Godfrey’s vision, hard work, perseverance and compassion. In March 2006, the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia recognized Judge Godfrey’s pioneering work by presenting her with a Certificate of Appreciation.
This Court’s work continues to be supervised and adapted to meet current needs by other judges to ensure that DTCV meets its goals. Members of the DTCV team are active in educating through DTCV training sessions and at local, national and international training conferences.
The DTCV sits every Tuesday and Thursday in Courtroom 303 at the Provincial Court of British Columbia, Vancouver District, located at 222 Main Street, Vancouver, BC. It convenes at 9:30 a.m. for the morning sittings and 2 p.m. for afternoon sittings, on those days.
To see if one may be considered to be eligible to participate in DTCV, the following guidelines and other information may be useful:
Drug Treatment Court of Vancouver (DTCV): An Empirical Evaluation of Recidivism 2011
The DTCV is also affiliated with broader umbrella organizations, they include: