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Law establishing CNMI drug court signed

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Acting governor Ralph DLG Torres signed yesterday a bill to establish a drug court in the CNMI.

House Bill No. 19-94 now becomes Public Law 19-14.

The law establishes a drug court within the Commonwealth Superior Court that will be “collaborative non-adversarial system to effect the rehabilitation and recovery of drug offenders through continuous court monitoring, regular drug testing, and holistic drug dependency treatment.”

Acting governor Ralph Torres is joined by judiciary and other government officials at the signing of monumental drug court bill yesterday at the Governor Office conference room on Capitol Hill. (Dennis B. Chan)

Acting governor Ralph Torres is joined by judiciary and other government officials at the signing of monumental drug court bill yesterday at the Governor Office conference room on Capitol Hill. (Dennis B. Chan)

Drug courts are seen a drastic departure from traditional criminal justice. The approach is “non-adversarial,” with a focus on long-term rehabilitation rather than immediate punitive or retributive punishment.

Speaking before a crowded governor’s conference room on Capitol Hill, Torres called it a “monumental day for the whole CNMI.”

Torres said they have a lot of progress to make and a lot of trial and error to go through. “[But] if we don’t start somewhere, we are not going to get there.”

Superior Court Associate Judge David A. Wiseman said, in his remarks yesterday, that he was pleased at the support of the many government officials present at the signing of this highly important bill.

Wiseman said the drug problem in the CNMI has grown to unacceptable proportions, and has resulted in an increase in crimes, domestic violence, and other numerous other adverse and negative consequences for our community.

“The drug court act once funded and implemented will be the beginning of a court that will function as a problem solving court, which will eventually reduce and mitigate the problems associated with drug addiction,” Wiseman said.

“Although we are all on the same page in favor of a drug court, we need to turn that page. And that page we are going to turn into to is the funding page.

We will be submitting a reasonable but necessary budget for the said implementation in request… We request that our legislators review it and approve it at the earliest convenience.”

“Implementation of a drug court will allow the CNMI to join Guam and the 50 other states—all which have drug courts—in a collaborative effort to address the devastating effects of crime in our families and in our communities.

Wiseman said the drug court is a nationally proven method to stop the revolving of short term crime sentences for drug related offenses. He said addicts desperately need specialized counseling and treatment, and the drug court can provide them with that help.

House Speaker Rep. Joseph Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan), who authored the drug court bill, said this was the first step in a “war on ice” aimed at getting offenders and many of CNMI family members who have fallen to the addiction “on programs with the aim of treating them and bringing them back to be positive members of our community.”

“Lieutenant governor, this is just one component of the bigger picture on this war on ice,” Deleon Guerrero said, acknowledging Gov. Eloy S. Inos’ recent establishing of a “war on ice” task force.

“This is just the first step in this process which will hopefully turn the tide and hopefully get rid of this scourge in our islands. We are not the first island, we are not the only island, but it is a good move in the right direction,” Deleon Guerrero said.

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at dennis_chan@saipantribune.com.

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