New sentencing options and treatment programs will soon be available in Kings County for people whose addictions lead to criminal behaviour. Government introduced the first court-monitored drug treatment program in Atlantic Canada today, April 23. The Kentville Law Courts will house the pilot project. “Keeping communities safe means trying to address whatever is causing people to get involved with criminal activity in the first place,” said Justice Minister Lena Diab. “People with drug addictions often turn to crime to maintain their habits. With treatment and support, many can turn their lives around, and that helps all of us in the long run.” The project is designed to ensure offenders take responsibility for their actions and commit to addiction treatment. People who have been charged with an offence can be referred to the program by their lawyer, the Crown attorney, police officers, probation officers and community treatment partners. They can also refer themselves. “A key role of the court is to impose sentences that contribute to a just, peaceful and safe society,” said Pamela Williams, Chief Judge of the Provincial and Family Courts of Nova Scotia. “During treatment, participants are held accountable to, and closely monitored by, the court. Sentences will try to deter the use of harmful substances that led to the crimes and to assist participants with rehabilitation.” To enter the program, participants must plead guilty to the offence and be in a treatment program before they return to court for sentencing. The court will monitor their progress. To graduate, participants must be drug-free for at least three months and be involved in their community. If they are charged with any new offences, they cannot complete the program. “We know that drug misuse, including abuse of prescription drugs, is a serious problem,” said Leo Glavine, Minister of Health and Wellness. “Today’s announcement is another positive step forward in our efforts to tackle this issue.” The pilot will be monitored to see if it helps prevent offenders from re-offending and reduces crime. The program began accepting referrals this month and court appearances should begin in May. The program is supported by the provincial and federal governments, the provincial court, Annapolis Valley Health, local police and community groups.