EDMONTON -- More drug treatment courts are coming to Alberta after the provincial government announced it would chip in another $20 million to expand the project.
The courts are an alternative form of justice for non-violent drug offenders facing a jail sentence of one to four years.
Instead of a regular trial and sentence hearing, drug users are provided with a rehabilitation plan and are closely monitored as they receive treatment, testing and social services support.
Their aim is to help offenders recover from addictions and work on personal development, such as gaining employable skills. Such courts have been linked to lower rates of recidivism among participants.
On Thursday, Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer revealed the province will invest more into the courts, doubling the capacity of both Edmonton and Calgary's programs from 40 participants to 80.
"They have done so much with so little over 10 years and I'm proud today to double their capacity and double their funding," the minister said.
The province is also considering adding court locations outside of the two major cities, Schweitzer said.
The executive director of a women's recovery centre said she's seen firsthand the positive impacts drug treatment courts have.
"Rather than keeping people in isolation, the role of drug courts in Alberta seek to ensure people are given a chance to reconnect with their community," said Lori Patrick.
People who have gone through the drug treatment court system say the process has been life-changing.
"It's been absolutely amazing. I was pretty broken, and coming from a place pretty deep in my addiction. They took me right out of that circumstance, I didn't see a way out on my own," said Jocelan Yeomans. "I don't know where I would be. Probably dead."
Yeomans said she has since overcome her drug addiction, registered for school and has designs on becoming a support worker to help women in similar situations.
Edmonton Police Service welcomed the news Thursday, saying it fully supported the government's investment.
"The funding will aid citizens at risk, and reduce the use of our criminal justice system when dealing with public health problems," Chief Dale McFee said in a news release.