Mandatory minimum sentences fail to deliver, says CAMH

TORONTO, Nov. 4 /CNW/ - Mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related offences are an expensive and ineffective approach to substance use problems in Canada. That's the message being delivered today by an addictions professional at Canada's largest mental health and addictions treatment and research hospital to a Senate Committee on Bill C-15 - legislation that would create mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug-related offences.

Wayne Skinner, deputy clinical director of the Addictions Program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), has worked in substance abuse for more than three decades. He appears at the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs today alongside Dr. Gabor Mate, a physician and author with extensive experience in addictions.

"The evidence from the U.S. and other jurisdictions tells us that mandatory minimum sentences are most effective at increasing prison populations and the cost of jailing them," Skinner tells the Senate Standing Committee today. "Reducing the demand for illicit drugs by investing in addiction treatment, including drug treatment courts, have proven to be much more cost effective and successful approaches."

CAMH submitted a brief to both the House of Commons and Senate Committees examining Bill C-15. The submission is available at CAMH believes that drug use is fundamentally a health problem that should be dealt with within a public health framework. Incarcerating large numbers of small scale drug dealers who are selling drugs to support their own substance use problem only adds new problems such the risk of contracting HIV or Hepatitis C. Also, the U.S. experience with mandatory minimums has led to ballooning prison populations. This policy is now being reversed in several states and resources are instead being directed to drug treatment programs.

"I encourage Senators to reflect on the overwhelming evidence telling us that mandatory minimum sentences cost governments more and fail to reduce the significant harm and cost of substance abuse," said Skinner.

SOURCE Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

For further information: For further information: For more information or to arrange interviews contact Michael Torres, CAMH Media Relations, 416-595-6015 or

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