Did you know that besides the traditional courtroom there are in fact several problem solving courts here in Manitoba? In my opinion, problem solving courts are a wonderful opportunity for offenders to face various problems in their life in a supportive and less penal way. Here in Manitoba, there are currently three different problem solving courts including the Drug Treatment Court, Mental Health Court and Domestic Violence Court.
The Drug Treatment Court gives non-violent offenders under the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act (CDSA) the opportunity to avoid incarceration by following a stringent program which seeks to break their drug reliance and provide them with health tools to overcome addiction. While strict abstinence isn’t necessary, relapses are to be reported, and if successful in the program, offenders often receive a community-based sentence.
In the Mental Health Court, offenders who have been diagnosed with severe mental illnesses (and meet specified criteria) are given the opportunity to work with a team of a psychiatrist amongst other specialists over an 18 to 24 month period. During this period, offenders often experience vast improvement in their mental illnesses and upon completion of the program, offenders are often ordered to serve their sentence in the community.
The Domestic Violence Court gives domestic violence offenders (specifically in Thompson, Manitoba) who accept responsibility for their actions at their first court appearance, the ability to receive rehabilitative services, and upon completion of the program they are referred back to the Domestic Violence Court to receive their sentence.
In a recent report by the CBC, it was confirmed that a fourth problem solving court is set to open in Manitoba. This new court will focus on providing people with fetal alcohol syndrome (FASD) a courtroom that is more understanding and responsive to their needs. For those unfamiliar with FASD, it occurs when a fetus is exposed to alcohol during pregnancy and the fetus’ brain development is affected. During their childhood and adulthood, individuals facing FASD suffer from memory, learning and comprehension issues. It has been found in several studies that FASD affects nearly 25% of criminals in Canada- which is why a FASD court is necessary. While the benefits of FASD courts are unproven, I believe that the benefits of an FASD court in Manitoba will truly gives Manitobans with FASD courtroom more sensitive to their needs.