Home > Tackling substance misuse from a problem-solving justice approach.

O'Hare, Geraldine and Luney, Peter (2020) Tackling substance misuse from a problem-solving justice approach. Irish Probation Journal, 17, pp. 43-62.

External website: https://www.pbni.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11...

Summary: Drug and alcohol misuse is a growing problem within Northern Ireland. NI figures show a 13% increase in the number of visits to needle and syringe exchange schemes, a doubling of drug-related deaths among males over the last 10 years, and estimates of substance dependency directly linked to offending in 76% of cases within the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) (NISRA, 2019). It can be argued, therefore, that substance misuse in NI is now a health emergency and is also an ever-increasing challenge for the administration of criminal justice in this jurisdiction. Organisations within the criminal justice system have been involved in a number of projects to tackle substance misuse, including the Substance Misuse Court (SMC) initiative. This initiative has its origins in ‘problem-solving justice’, which is an approach that seeks to tackle the root causes of offending behaviour (O’Hare, 2018). The Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (NICTS) has responsibility for developing this programme with delivery and intervention by the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) in partnership with Addiction NI (ADNI). This problem-solving court was established at Belfast Magistrates’ Court in April 2018, and takes an alternative approach to dealing with offenders when substance dependency is a predominant factor in their offending behaviour. The court directs eligible offenders to engage with an intensive treatment programme, to help tackle their addiction and change their behaviour. While the SMC is still in its infancy and evolving, early results are encouraging, with a sustained participant engagement in supervision and treatment rate of 87.5% recorded. This paper sets out the findings of an evaluation of the SMC conducted in 2019, and looks at the next steps in the development of this innovative project

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