Taiwan’s justice system could use intervention and treatment programs to rehabilitate and reintegrate drug offenders into society instead of incarcerating them, judicial officials and legal professionals said at an international conference in Taipei on Wednesday to discuss the nation’s anti-drug policy.
Christine Carpenter, a recently retired US drug court judge who served 18 years on 13th Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri, gave one of the main presentations at the Best Practices of Drug Courts and Multiple Intervention Programs Conference, which was organized the CTBC Anti-Drug Educational Foundation (中信反毒基金會).
The conference speakers were in Taiwan to share their experience in the US of dealing with drug offenders, using a community-based approach with the involvement of social service and health agencies in intervention and treatment programs, and to see if there are cultural differences that require changes and modifications for Taiwan’s justice system, Carpenter said in an interview yesterday.
Photo provided by the CTBC Anti-Drug Educational Foundation
Carpenter presented a speech titled “Practice of Drug Courts in the US, the Missouri State Model” at the conference, which was organized by the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and the US National Association of Drug Court Professionals.
Carpenter serves as the association’s senior adviser for international affairs.
She attended a similar event in Taiwan last year, at which experts from the US, Japan and Germany took part in an international exchange on the best practices of their countries’ drug court systems, and looked at alternative ways of dealing with substance abuse and drug addicts.
Supported by US federal and state funding, the US drug court system handles convicted substance abusers and drug offenders not by putting them into prison, but by focusing on rehabilitation through treatment and education to help them overcome addiction and related criminal problems, so that they can be reintegrated into society.
“We use assessment and screening tools to select people for getting treatment, but there are ‘high-risk’ and ‘high-need’ drug offenders who have associated criminal and mental issues — those are difficult cases to handle, because public safety is at stake,” Carpenter said.
First-time offenders and those deemed low-risk would be selected for treatment, rather than be sent to prison, she said.
Carpenter said that an example would be a college student caught growing marijuana in their dorm room, “but they have never been in trouble before, as they are not drug addicts, and they want to come to the treatment program because they don’t want to have a conviction record.”
In her job, people share their life stories, stories about their families, their personal situations and their travails, Carpenter said.
“Being a drug court judge is a very, very hard job, but it is also one of the best jobs, because you really can make changes, instead of just sending people to prison,” she said.
Carpenter said that she met and discussed issues with the minister of justice, the minister of health and welfare, and chief prosecutors, as well as CTBC Anti-Drug Educational Foundation chairman Jeffrey Koo Jr (辜仲諒) and Roger Kao (高人傑), head of the Global General Administration Group for CTBC Bank.
They were quite interested in the US experience, she said, adding that the conference aimed to introduce new ideas and reforms for Taiwan’s drug policy, with the possibility of establishing a drug court system in the nation.
Taiwanese judicial officials said that they could learn a lot from the US and other countries regarding best practices of drug court systems, and that assisting drug offenders with integrated treatment programs could be more effective in combating substance abuse, reducing the burden on judicial resources and alleviating the problem of prison overcrowding.
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