The controversial mandatory alcohol treatment centers have had their first scandal after one of the inmates escaped after being forcibly detained at the facility.
The man had been detained at the center for 4 days when he made his get-away, bringing into question the ability of these facilities to fulfill their mandate.
According to the new laws which are currently under assessment, if police pick up drinkers more than 2 times in 2 months, they will be assessed and may be forced to undergo alcohol rehabilitation for 3 months.
Attorney-General and acting Health Minister John Elferink supported the new laws and said that the fact that people are trying to escape is evidence of the effectiveness of the centres. This post from news.ninemsn.com.au explains,
A 31-year-old problem drinker fled from the former medi-hotel on the grounds of Royal Darwin hospital about 9pm on Monday night.
He had been detained for four days as part of the assessment phase under the new Alcohol Mandatory Treatment Tribunal.
Drinkers picked up by police three times in two months will be assessed under new laws that could see them detained for forced rehabilitation for three months.
“It demonstrates that this policy is starting to bite the people it’s targeted at, which is the people in our parks and gardens on a daily basis making a nuisance of themselves,” Attorney-General and acting Health Minister John Elferink told reporters in Darwin on Tuesday.
The man was being held in a locked room in a locked compound and was checked on by a staff member every 15 minutes.
“It seems absurd to claim that people running away before undergoing any rehabilitation is proof that this policy works, said Michael Gunner, shadow minister for alcohol policy and police.
There are so far 4 secure rehab facilities set up in the NT and a further 2 being built. Rehab centres have been established in Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine and Nhulunbuy. An additional 2 are being built at Tennant Creek and the Tiwi Islands. These numbers are warranted when you consider that up to 800 alcoholics a year are expected to be treated.
Police are also going to do their part by increasing their patrols especially in hotspots which will likely result in more people being arrested for drunkenness and disorderly conduct. The rehabilitation process will include medical treatment, work preparation and life skills training for the inmates.
This incident has highlighted for NT authorities the need to intensify security at the facilities although they will have to maintain a balance because these centres are not prisons. The post goes on to explain:
“This is a health intervention, this is not a prison,” he said.
“This particular chap has not committed a criminal offence, he has engaged in conduct which is destructive to himself, his family and the community.”
A 46-year-old Alice Springs woman became the first person sent to mandatory alcohol rehabilitation last week, after being picked up three times by police.
She told the tribunal she knew she had a drinking problem and asked to go to rehab.