Thanks for this report by Drug Reporter -to read more, click their website/page, here on 10th March, 2018. To find out more about the report and why it is important, follow Drug Reporter's reporting on the issue. It is relevant to European people who use drugs "this is a very important document which can be used as an advocacy tool for civil society in the EU and beyond. It is also useful for promoting research on the effectiveness of ACS" says Drug Reporter.
There are many concerns the PWUD community have over so called 'alternatives to coercive sanctions' , particularly when what is offered as 'rehab' in EU countries like Greece and Italy for example, are questionable and concerning as well as 'alternatives' to prison such as 'fines' for people in other countries are totally unrealistic and often do as much harm, further down the road (ie unpaid fines often means prison anyway). Alternatives to coercive sanctions will be raised again at the CND this year.
Drug Reporter reports on the issue below - (to read more, click their link to the rest of the article).
The Council encourages member states to divert drug using offenders from the criminal justice system and refer them to educational and/or treatment programs.
Action 22 in the EU Action Plan on Drugs (2017-20) requires member states “to provide and apply, where appropriate and in accordance with their legal frameworks, alternatives to coercive sanctions for drug using offenders.” As part of the implementation of this action, the European Council adopted its Conclusions on the alternatives to coercive sanctions (ACS) on 8 March 2018. The Conclusions were previously discussed and approved by the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs, the monthly meeting of representatives of member states (usually chief government officials of national drug administrations) on March 1st in Brussels.
The Conclusions recommend member states make ACS (Alternatives to Coercive Standards) available, to implement them effectively, and to monitor and evaluate their effectiveness. They describe five forms of ACS: 1) Education, 2) (Suspension of sentence with) treatment, 3) Suspension of investigation or prosecution, 4) Rehabilitation and recovery, and 5) Aftercare and social reintegration. These measures can be applied in different stages of the criminal procedure, including pre-trial referral of the offender to treatment. The Council invites member states to examine available data on ACS and share it with other member states and EU institutions – so that they can be promoted to countries outside of the EU.
The Conclusions reflect on the findings of a report on ACS produced by RAND Europe for the EU Commission in 2016. According to the report, “if member states wanted to increase the use of ACS, one route could be improving the knowledge of police, prosecutors and judges about what ACS are available, the evidence on the effectiveness of treatment, and improving feedback and information exchange between those imposing the sentence and those supervising the sentences.” So the Council invites member states to train law enforcement officials about effective ACS and to share good practices.
The text of the Conclusions is somewhat weaker than the provisions of the Action Plan. For example the AP talks about “increasing availability and implementation” while the Conclusions ask member states only to “promote the availability”. Still, this is a very important document which can be used as an advocacy tool for civil society in the EU and beyond. It is also useful for promoting research on the effectiveness of ACS. The evidence base is currently “promising, but equivocal” according to the RAND report.