Apr 10, 2012

New Law Requires Treatment for First-time Drug Offenders in Mexico

La Jornada: (Americas Program original translation)

Alejandra Barrales, chairwoman of the Committee of Governors of the ALDF, and Congressman Horacio Martinez unveiled an initiative known as the Law for the Jurisdictional Treatment of Addictions, which will be presented tomorrow before a full congressional session and mandates that first-time drug offenders who have not committed a serious crime be sent to a certified treatment facility, not prison.

Therapeutic jurisprudence considers addiction a public health problem, not a crime. It seeks to rehabilitate the accused under the supervision of the Addiction Treatment Court for up to two years, or return them to prison to serve out their sentences, lower recidivism by reducing or eliminating drug or alcohol use, and achieve social reintegration.

Eligible individuals, including incarcerated adolescents, who, in 80 percent of cases committed crimes under the influence of drugs, are those who have already received formal arrest, repaid damages to the victim, are first offenders, express their willingness to submit to the process, and have not committed serious crimes, explained lawmakers.

If approved, the law will be first in the country to give judicially mandated treatment to addicts. Drug use has grown to such a degree that it ranks second among claims and concerns made by citizens of the capital; the first is public insecurity said the congressman before United Nations representatives and officials from the Mexico City goverrnment.

“Addictions are neither a vice, nor a criminal behavior, but a chronic and progressive brain disorder that requires treatment,” said Rafael Camacho Solís, director of the Institute for Prevention and Treatment of Addiction. He noted that 37 percent of inmates in the capital’s prisons committed crimes under the influence of drugs, thus “we should get to the bottom of the matter and I hope the next legislature allocates sufficient resources for the required infrastructure.”

Édgar Elías Azar, Chief Justice of the Federal District Court, said: “Lawmakers need to plan a budget. We don’t want to be caught in something ridiculous; there are only 2 judges out of 25 that give out sentences. This new proposal requires training five to ten judges who carry along the process and verify that the institutions apply the treatment.”

Today, 80 percent of criminal trials are for theft. Of these, 40 percent involve those under the influence of a narcotic substance; the application of therapeutic jurisprudence would help solve the problem. In the U.S., the implementation of such a program, known as “drug courts,” has reduced both the prison population and recidivism substantially, he said.

He said that on Tuesday the Judicial Council requested the implementation of a statistical study of how many first offenders are addicted to determine the number of courts.

The first stage would deal with 2,000 people. See Spanish original

Translation by Michael Kane, Americas Program

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