This module is a resource for lecturers  


Case studies


Case study one: Using community service orders to address drunk driving

"The Thai Department of Probation, in close cooperation with the courts, conducted a successful campaign against drunk driving, long a major cause of road accidents. In this initiative, drunk drivers, who would normally have received three-month imprisonment terms, were instead given suspended sentences and put on probation with the requirement that they perform 24 hours of community service. The authorities selected community service activities designed to sensitize drunk drivers to the kinds of injuries they might cause themselves or others. They included assisting the victims of car accidents, working in hospitals, and volunteering for road accident emergency rescue units. 

The Department worked hard to get the campaign's message to the public. In addition to TV advertisements and short film contests, some celebrities who had been arrested for drunk driving and placed on probation participated in the campaign to reduce the number of deaths and injuries during the holidays. Such efforts produced additional dividends. Recently, the Bangkok based ABAC poll found that 91 per cent of the public polled agreed with the idea that drunk drivers should receive community service orders. When asked whether they had heard of the Department of Probation, once the least known organization in the criminal justice system, 83 per cent of those polled answered in the affirmative, a steep rise from the 48 per cent logged in an October 2000 survey."

Source: UNODC (2007). Handbook of basic principles and promising practices on Alternatives to Imprisonment . New York: United Nations, p. 36.

Case study two: Portugal and the elimination of criminal penalties for low-level possession of controlled drugs

"In 2001, Portugal eliminated criminal penalties for low-level possession of all types of controlled drugs and reclassified these activities as administrative violations under Law 30/2000.

The acquisition and possession of controlled drugs is deemed an administrative offence (cfr. articles 4 and 36 of the 1961 Single Convention), sanctioned by administrative measures rather than by criminal punishment (as long as the quantity held by the offender does not exceed ten days' worth of personal supply). Drug trafficking and possession of controlled drugs in higher amounts than legally foreseen are still processed through the criminal justice system.

When a person is found in possession of any drugs for non-medical personal consumption, he/she is diverted to a local "Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Abuse". This commission - the unique cornerstone of the Portuguese approach - is comprised of one justice professional and two representatives from health or social services who determine whether and to what extent the person suffers from a drug use disorder. After examining the personal circumstances of the offender, the Commission evaluates possible treatment, education and rehabilitation measures. The commission could refer a person with a drug use disorder to voluntary treatment, pay a fine or impose other administrative sanctions (such as a warning or a banning from certain places).

In June 2012, the International Narcotic Control Board (INCB) undertook a mission to Portugal to examine the results of the implementation of Law 30/2000. The Board acknowledged that the Commissions for the Dissuasion of Drug Abuse are an important element of the demand reduction mechanism in Portugal (INCB Board, 2015). It noted that the Government is committed to strengthening the primary prevention of drug use disorders. INCB came to the conclusion that the Government of Portugal is fully committed to the objectives of the international drug control treaties since Law 30/2000 has not legalized the possession and acquisition of drugs."

Source: UNODC and the World Health Organization (2018). Treatment and Care for People with Drug Use Disorders in Contact with the Criminal Justice System . Vienna: UNODC and WHO, pp. 52-53.


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