The Drug Court only operates in the Adelaide Magistrate Court. It was established in June 2000 as an initiative of the Government of South Australia. The interagency team funded to support the Drug Court comprises:

  • Department for Correctional Services which provides 24 hour home detention monitoring
  • The Legal Services Commission which provides designated defence counsel for defendants appearing in the Drug Court
  • The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions which provides designated prosecutors for the Drug Court
  • Non government agencies provide housing and treatment services.

The drug court concept was introduced in the United States of America in the late 1980s in response to a burgeoning illicit drug problem that was resistant to traditional criminal justice system interventions.

Drug Courts combine intensive judicial supervision, mandatory drug testing, escalating sanctions, and treatment and support services to help drug-abuse offenders break the cycle of drug abuse and crime.

Research from the US shows that drug courts reduce recidivism related to drug abuse. There are numerous Drug Court models in operation and South Australia has adapted the most suitable aspects of other models and designed a unique Drug Court model that best suits the needs of our community, legal system and service providers.


  • To minimise/stop the use of illicit drugs
  • To prevent/decrease any further offending


An analysis of post program completion re- offending undertaken by the Office of Crime Statistics and Research suggests that the Drug Court program is having a positive effect on reducing the level and seriousness of re-offending. Offending profiles of SA Drug Court Program “completers.” Dec 2004

A similar study of post program completion re-offending of participants between 2006 – 2008 was recently undertaken by the Office of Crime Statistics and Research and supported the positive effect of Drug Court.

The following broader treatment goals and strategies are also incorporated into the program

Treatment goalsTreatment strategies
Develop self awareness about the effects of their behaviour on self and othersMoral Reconation Therapy (MRT)
Increase accountability for self and actionsCourt monitoring

Case management - Pro-social modelling


Staying Quit - prevention relapse

Rewards and sanctions

Drug testing & discussions about use
Develop a commitment to acting honestlyCourt monitoring

Case management - Pro-social modelling


Rewards and sanctions

Drug testing & discussions about use​
Develop understanding about what is important to self (values) and recognise one’s strengthsCase management - Pro-social modelling


Staying Quit
Increase capacity to set life goals and monitor progressCase management - Pro-social modelling


Staying Quit

To be eligible for participation a person must fulfil ALL of these conditions

  • Have committed an offence whilst an adult (18 years of age or above at the date of commission of the offences)
  • Live in the boundaries of the Adelaide Metropolitan Area at a residence that is suitable for electronically monitored home detention bail.  The geographical regional boundaries extend as far north as Gawler City Centre, as far South as Noarlunga City Centre and as far east as the foothills
  • Be charged with an offence that is related to their drug use (but not necessarily a drug offence), for which they are likely to be imprisoned.
  • Have either:
    • A current dependency on illicit drugs or
    • A previous dependency, which is not current due to an involuntary or forced abstinence; and have a high probability of returning to drug use.
  • Indicate a willingness to participate in the Drug Court Program and comply with the case management plan developed for them
  • Plead guilty to both the most serious offence and the majority of offences with which they have been charged

Persons are not eligible if:

  • They are charged with a major indictable offence.
  • Live outside the metropolitan boundaries

The Drug Court is a 12 month program with clearly defined rules that assist drug-abusing offenders to accept responsibility for their own rehabilitation.

Although participants volunteer to participate once they agree they must agree to comply with the program requirements. Research indicates that a person who is required to enter treatment by the criminal justice system is likely to do as well as one who volunteers for treatment.

The program combines intensive judicial supervision, strict bail conditions, rewards and sanctions, drug testing, intensive treatment and practical support. Low cost, furnished rental accommodation is provided for participants and an initial home start pack of household staples is provided. Additional support is provided for Aboriginal participants. Offenders accepted into the program have a case management plan individually designed to meet their requirements although there are key treatment components that apply to everyone.

What the program can include

  • Withdrawal management – including in-patient detoxification if necessary
  • Pharmacological treatment if necessary – for example methadone
  • Relapse prevention – for example counselling, group therapy
  • Group therapy and individual counselling to develop pro-social thoughts and behaviours
  • Prevention of further offending behaviour through restricted bail
  • Referral and assistance to manage physical and mental health issues
  • Referral to access education or vocational training
  • Provision of accommodation from up to 15 months and referral to access long term housing
  • Assistance to restore family relationships
  • Referral to obtain income support  and manage financial issues
  • Support to find or maintain employment
  • Practical assistance on leaving detention with basic personal items and food items until income support is arranged
  • Brokerage funds to purchase services where necessary.

Rewards and Sanctions are used in most Drug Courts to reinforce compliance with treatment regime.

Rewards are used to reinforce positive behavior and consist of non-monetary “social reinforcers” such as recognition for progress or sincere effort and program staff provide small tangible rewards such as bus tickets and food vouchers to reinforce sustained compliance with the treatment regime.

The Magistrate applies graduated sanctions for noncompliant behaviour. A point system operates and points are awarded for minor non-compliance. Increasingly severe sanctions may be issued for more serious or continued problem behavior. These sanctions may include bail revocation and a period of incarceration.

The program is divided into 3 phases

Phase 1 –Three months

  • Intensive judicial supervision is undertaken via fortnightly court
  • Home detention bail is mandatory
  • Treatment consists of individual counselling and group programs especially designed to address the nexus between offending and drug use. (MRT and Staying Quit)
  • Drug testing three times a week

Phase 2 – Six months

  • Monthly court appearances
  • Bail conditions reduced to night curfew
  • Treatment continues
  • Drug testing reduces to twice a week

Phase 3 – Three months

  • Monthly court appearances
  • Night bail conditions continue
  • Drug testing is random

The points system of allocating points for non-compliance provides a total that can provide an easy overview of progress. Points are awarded for failure to attend treatment sessions, minor breaches of bail, lying about drug use or delivering a positive drug test. Relapses in drug use are common during  the early phases of the program  but continued drug use is a sign that progress is not being made.

Successful completion is achieved if the person remains on the program for the 12 month period without reoffending and progresses through the treatment and is able to significantly reduce or totally abstain from drug use.

Special recognition has been given to the over representation of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system and comparatively high rates of incarceration. The program provides a designated Community Support Worker for Aboriginal participants and facilitates access to culturally appropriate rehabilitation activities. The program aims to provide a culturally sensitive and responsive service for Aboriginal participants.

The clinical staff in the program come from a variety of backgrounds including social work, social science, nursing and psychology. There is a designated position to supervise the drug testing and an administrative assistant. The Intervention Programs Manager is responsible for overseeing the Drug Court program.

There is also a 6-month option for defendants who have a substance dependence but are not facing charges that may lead to immediate imprisonment.  The program is shorter but no less intensive and has the same program elements as above with the exception that home detention is not mandatory. Accommodation is also not provided for participants undertaking the 6-month option.  The 6-Month Drug Treatment option is offered as part of the Treatment Intervention Program.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions will prosecute cases in the Drug Court and the Prosecutor will ensure that victims’ rights are met.  These rights, which are consistent with the rights afforded to all victims, include the right to be informed of conditions of bail, the right to inform the court of the impact of the crime and the right to be advised of the final sentence.