This is why we recently made a submission to the Victorian Parliament’s Law Reform, Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee, which is inquiring into the supply and use of methamphetamines.
Shepparton suffer high levels of socio-economic disadvantage. This situation is characterised by unstable and unaffordable housing, low education levels, low employment prospects, financial distress, relationship breakdown and social isolation. Poor mental health and alcohol and drug abuse is common.
Although we do not collect data on methamphetamine use, anecdotal evidence suggests that its prevalence, particularly in its crystal form, is growing.
The clients we see face prosecution for:
- Driving offences (including driving with drugs detectable in their system, speeding, unlicensed and driving unregistered vehicles)
- Possession and use offences
- Trafficking small quantities to pay for their habits
- Shop and motor vehicle theft, and
- Assaults ( including family violence)
In our experience, existing strategies are ineffective or inadequate and have contributed to the increased use of the drug within the Goulburn Valley.
In our view, a program similar to the Court Integrated Services Program (CISP) in Melbourne, Sunshine and the La Trobe Valley is desperately needed in our region to address offending where alcohol, drugs, intellectual disabilities, mental health, financial distress and housing issues are the dominant factors.
Such a model should be driven by an external agency that employs experienced case managers based at the courts who would undertake initial assessments either prior to a hearing or upon referral from a Magistrate, lawyer or Prosecutor. These referrals would occur whenever underlying issues such as substance abuse, mental health, intellectual impairment or homelessness were suspected as being significant factors contributing to the client’s offending.
Our submission also proposes that the government consider the application of a Justice Reinvestment approach to the problem, whereby resources that would be spent on prison facilities and programs are re-directed into the local communities from where the offenders originate and to which they will undoubtedly return. Such an approach would require changes to bail, sentencing, parole and release policies that would see more low-level offenders (in particular) released into the community on programs. The resulting financial savings would be reinvested in improving their neighbourhoods, especially housing opportunities, and the provision of better health, job training, education and sporting facilities.
To read our full submission, please click HERE.