AB - DRUG TREATMENT COURT COULD COME TO OKOTOKS
Date: Saturday, December 20 @ 13:56:08 PST
Topic: Enforcement


Calvin, a drug addict from Calgary, is pleading for his life.

Calvin spent the weekend smoking crack cocaine and as a result could be tossed out of a drug treatment program that he believed was the road to recovery.

"I'm shaking right now," Calvin told the group of people who would decide whether he will remain in jail or return to the Dream Centre, a residential treatment facility in Calgary.

The Crown prosecutor stands up and tells Calvin she doesn't understand why he wants to stay in treatment when he made plans to escape the centre and do drugs with friends.

"This program has done a lot for me in the last three months," Calvin told her. "I've seen lots of changes in myself and I don't want that to go away."

Calvin speaks at length about his battle against his addictions, saying about drug treatment centres, "I've done 'em all."

But something is different now. Calvin was approved to move to the Dream Centre three months ago and also has the weekly support of everyone in courtroom 1107.

Gone is the legalese and the formality of traditional courtrooms. In Calgary's Drug Court people speak openly and from the heart. It is obvious that everyone in the courtroom - the judge, the Crown prosecutor, the probation officer, the social workers and the criminals/drug addicts all know each other and genuinely care for one another.

That doesn't mean they are naive. Everyone involved, Judge Jim Ogle, Crown Prosecutor Lori Plater and top ranking policemen, including Calgary's top drug squad cop, have heard and seen it all before.

"They come to realize that deception and dishonesty is not tolerated and is easily discovered," Ogle said.

However when court is in session it is like no other proceeding in Calgary's massive downtown courthouse.

Addicts and criminals talk about their families, their fears, their progress and their setbacks.

Right now the program can accept up to eight people. Those in the program report to the court for as long as two years and at first check in weekly.

Their visits can become less frequent as the addicts make progress in their lives.

Over that time Ogle said he gets to know these people in an entirely different way than those being dealt with in the regular court system.

"Through this process you come to realize there is a very human story behind everyone of the program participants," Ogle said. "After being a lawyer and judge for 30 years you come to realize that no crime is black and white - it is every shade of grey. It is very normal for people to get terrible addictions and take a wrong turn and get involved in crime. They are not scary monsters. They are people who could be your brothers, sisters, a relative or a friend."

Rob Laird is the intake worker for Calgary's Drug Treatment Court and the Dream Centre and a foothills resident. He has spent a lot of time in the Okotoks courthouse as an observer and more recently as an advocate for drug addicts trying to beat their habits.

Laird said extending the drug court to Okotoks is something that is being looked at.

"Okotoks and the area around it are overrun with criminals who are committing crimes to fuel their drug addictions," Laird said. "It is so easy to throw them in jail and when they come out they are the same or worse. If you put them in treatment you are giving them a chance."

According to stats from the Calgary Police Service, the average drug addict spends $2,000 to $3,000 a week on drugs, but needs to to steal about $20,000 worth of goods per week to sell, pawn or trade in order to feed their addiction.

Laird said getting these criminals off the street and off of dope is a financial no-brainer for the community.

Currently the Calgary Drug Court is funded by the City of Calgary, which provides $260,000 per year.

Laird is hopeful the Province will come through with upwards of $4million to expand the program to allow more Algerians and people living in communities around the city like Okotoks to take part in the program. An application for funding has also been made to the federal government, which already funds six drug courts across the country in cities like Vancouver, Edmonton and Regina.

In the meantime, participants in Calgary's Drug Treatment Courts are already reaching out to the foothills community. A pair of recovering drug addicts named Carl and Kieran spoke at Strathcona Tweedsmuir School Tuesday to share their experiences. Carl, a former drug dealer, cocaine and heroine addict and father, is 50-years-old. Despite his tough background, Carl laughed in court the week before his speaking engagement, admitting to nerves. Kieran, a 27-year-old once recognized for bravery when he pulled people out of a burning building, sunk all of his successes, including a thriving trucking business into his crystal-meth addiction.

Both men have been sober for months and hope to reach young people with their stories.

Laird said if the drug court program comes to Okotoks, drug addicts charged with non-violent, non-sexual crimes that are not a threat to the community would qualify to enter the Dream Centre or Youville, a women's treatment centre. The addicts must plead guilty to the charges and undergo an 18-month process that includes rehabilitation, weekly court visits and counseling. If they complete the 18-month program they are sentenced at that time.

Those who relapse can be thrown out of the program and sentenced for their crimes.





This article comes from CrystalMeth BC.CA --- Meth Information Website
http://crystalmethbc.com

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