EspañolArgentina’s government is working on a bill to establish special drug courts for prosecuting minor offenses in cases in which the accused seems to be affected by drug dependency.
The government’s intention is to develop tools for rehabilitation under conditions controlled by the Justice Department, similar to operations in the United States and Chile.
The proposal, to be addressed in next year’s National Congress, is being worked on by the Ministries of Justice and Security, together with the Secretary of Programming for the Prevention of Drug Addiction and the Fight Against Drug Trafficking (Sedronar).
“The goal of drug treatment courts is to reduce incidents of problematic substance use related to criminal activity,” a National Plan for Drug Demand Reduction said.
The courts would not deal with drug dealing cases, but will reportedly set mandatory rehabilitation guidelines in exchange for terminating a criminal process.
National authorities have been building on experience in the Salta Province since 2014. Addicts charged with misdemeanors may apply for admission to drug treatment programs instead of incarceration. The defendant must comply with certain requirements established by a judge, and if they fail to comply, their case could be returned to the normal justice system, where jail is a possibility.
A 2012 study reportedly revealed that 68.5 percent of the incarcerated population consumed illegal drugs, compared to the rest of the population which barely touches 10 percent.
InSight Crime, a foundation dedicated to the study of organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean, said there are examples of similar programs in the United States that may shed light on some of the pros and cons of addiction treatment as an alternative to imprisonment.
The foundation said advocates of so-called “drug courts” in the United States argue that these programs save the state money by diverting defendants to drug treatment facilities instead of jail. They also ensure that drug courts reduce recidivism and addiction, which is achieved through treatment and the threat of jail.
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But InSight Crime also highlighted criticisms of such programs, claiming drug courts have at best been “minimally effective” in reducing recidivism and addiction, and that in many cases “they do not save money.”
For critics, many people accused of having addiction problems “do not meet the requirements of the programs and end up in jail rather than continuing to receive the necessary treatment.”
Insight Crime also said that while both positions have their merits, a long-term study sponsored by the United States government found that drug courts “effectively save money and reduce recidivism rates.”
“If Argentina moves forward with this proposal, it will be important for the authorities to carry out similar studies and define the programs based on the results of those analyses,” Insight Crime said.