Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to congratulate the Ministers of Justice and Health and Social Services on the implementation this fall of the long-awaited and brand new Territorial Wellness Court. This alternative court will reroute people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, cognitive challenges, mental health issues and addictions away from the conventional court system into situations where their underlying issues can be addressed in a healthy way. It is appropriate for these people that are not being well-served in jail and are better served through treatment programs and community-based services.
I appreciated a visit this summer from Judge Ruddy of the Yukon Community Wellness Court, who shared their relevant experience with their similar court. Yukon Wellness Court results have been stellar. The Yukon recidivism rate of 90 percent dropped for those completing the community wellness court programs to an astounding 11 percent. Equivalent reduction to 30 percent was achieved for people who partially completed the program. What a difference. It is my hope that our program will be just as successful and that continued improvements will be made.
For many years, offenders in need of treatment were warehoused with high-risk and violent offenders in correctional facilities, with predictable results. People who needed programs were put into a situation that nearly guaranteed that they would be put back into society, possibly with greater criminal skills rather than with the skills needed to cope as a responsible member of society.
The Wellness Court gives people who need our help to navigate our modern society, the tools to get to a place where they feel they belong and are valued. Less recidivism makes society a safer place, makes our jails less full and keeps families together and able to support each other. It’s also much more cost effective and humane, as opposed to a policy of one-size-fits-all incarceration.
To date, many of our people have rotated back into our jails as soon as they got out, often due to mental health issues or addictions. Hopefully, the Wellness Court will break this vicious cycle. However, to be successful, we need to ensure that required medical resources are in place and that
monitoring systems and statistics are collected to ensure evaluation and adjustments as needed.
My kudos, once again, to all who have contributed to the start-up of the Territorial Wellness Court. I will have questions. Mahsi.