Addicts can be sentenced to treatment

Norway’s conservative minority government, with support from most all other parties in Parliament, is making it possible for courts to sentence drug-addicted convicts to treatment programs instead of to jail. The treatment option will go into effect immediately.

Good experience in Bergen and Oslo with what’s known as narkotikaprogrammet (the narcotics program) prompted Justice Minister Anders Anundsen to make it available nationwide. It’s billed as an alternative sentence for drug addicts convicted of crimes tied to their addiction.

Individually tailored rehabilitation
“We’re rolling out the program that has been tested since 2006, in which addicts have been sentenced to treatment with concrete follow-up,” Anundsen said on Friday.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that as part of the program, convicts will enter individually tailored drug rehabilation, combining both health care and educational or vocational aspects.

The alternative sentencing has broad support in Parliament. “The goal is that more addicts will rid themselves of their drug dependency and fewer will return to crime,” Anundsen said. “But if the terms of the program are violated, the convicts must serve an ordinary prison term.”

“Finally,” exclaimed Kjell Ingolf Ropstad, deputy leader of the parliament’s justice committee and an MP for the Christian Democrats. “We are glad this offer is going nationwide.” Ropstad believes it will help addicts convicted of crimes and is a “win-win” situation for society.

Some objections
Arild Knutsen, leader of an association for more humane drug policies, wasn’t as enthusiastic. “This is a step in the right direction, but addicts will still be treated like criminals,” Knutsen told NRK.

He claimed that forced drug rehab treatment “is still a form of punishment, and that’s not what these people need. They need help.” Others argue that narcotics remain illegal substances, and using them remains illegal and thus subject to criminal prosecution.

Hedda Giertsen, a professor of criminology at the University of Oslo, said the program is a good one, but the addicts who become repeat offenders could have been offered the program without going through the courts.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund