Treatment and Care of People with Drug Use Disorders in Contact with the Criminal Justice System: Alternatives to Conviction or Punishment

The respect, protection and fulfilment of the right to health is a primary goal of drug control policies. Under the international drug control conventions, States parties have committed themselves to take all practicable measures to prevent the illicit use of drugs and to provide for the early identification, treatment, education, aftercare, rehabilitation and social reintegration of persons involved with the illicit use of drugs, including when they are in contact with the criminal justice system. A key challenge in many countries is to provide adequate treatment and care, not just in prison settings but also as alternatives to conviction or punishment.

In order to address this challenge, UNODC hosted a Meeting of Experts on "Treatment and Care for People with Drug Use Disorders in Contact with the Criminal Justice System: Alternatives to Conviction and Punishment" from 4 to 6 October 2016, bringing together more than 60 health and justice practitioners from 30 countries, as well as civil society and international organizations (AU, EMCDDA, CICAD/OAS) to share experiences and national practices.

The experts exchanged information and views on possible approaches to broaden the use of non-custodial measures, including treatment and care, to persons with drug use disorders, in appropriate cases and in different stages of criminal proceedings. They highlighted the importance of the close cooperation between health and justice sectors, including to ensure that despite possible criminal justice measures the State offers treatment in a continuum of care to patients with drug use disorders. It was stressed that evidence-based treatment and care (and education) services needed to be available and accessible in order to be used to divert appropriate cases from the criminal justice system or as an effective alternative to custodial measures. The meeting provided valuable inputs for a forthcoming handbook by UNODC and WHO on ways in which treatment and care can be applied as alternatives to conviction or punishment in appropriate cases.

This event was organized in response to CND resolution 58/5 on "Supporting the collaboration of public health and justice authorities in pursuing alternative measures to conviction or punishment for appropriate drug related offences of a minor nature" and is part of the UNODC/WHO initiative to offer support to Member States in their efforts to implement treatment and care for people with drug use disorders who are in contact with the criminal justice system, launched in March 2016.

Please see the links below for background information and additional details on the work of UNODC on alternatives to imprisonment as well as drug use prevention, treatment and care.