Wellness Court Process
What is the Wellness Court Program?
Is this the only specialized court in the NWT?
- Many people in the criminal justice system have one or more issues, such as mental health problems, addictions, or cognitive challenges. These issues often interfere with an offender's ability to change their lives and stay out of jail.
- The Wellness Court Program is a judicially supervised court program designed to address the conditions that may contribute to re-offending.
- The purpose of the Wellness Court Program is to help offenders move beyond re-offending and successfully integrate into their communities by helping them develop a healthier life. This program will give people a chance to change, while still holding them accountable for their behavior.
Who is eligible to participate?
- No. The Domestic Violence Treatment Options Court has been in operation since 2011.
How does it work?
- A person charged with one or more offences to the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act may be eligible for the Wellness Court Program. Crown counsel determines initial eligibility based on the charges and circumstances. Not all charges will be eligible for the program.
Who else is involved in the Wellness Court Program?
- First of all, offenders have to want to make positive change in their lives.
- Second, they have to accept responsibility for the crime they've been charged with, consent to participation and agree to the conditions of their release.
- Third, they have to be ready to put in a lot of hard work. The development of a wellness plan may take 60 days or more to complete. However, access to services can start right away.
- Offenders who are ready to take that step will be referred for an assessment of their suitability.
- Offenders, who meet the eligibility and suitability criteria for admission into the program and choose to participate, will be accepted into the program and be assigned to a case manager. The case manager will then work with the offender to create a wellness plan for their specific needs.
- Progress will be reviewed on a regular basis and offenders will have to regularly appear in Wellness Court before a judge.
Is participation limited to offences committed in Yellowknife?
How long does it take to complete the program?
- The Wellness Court Program is a collaborative effort between the Territorial Court, several GNWT departments, and community agencies (Department of Justice, Department of Education, Culture & Employment, NWT Housing Corporation, Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority, and Department of Health & Social Services). The RCMP, Public Prosecution Service, and Defence Bar are also closely involved. Cooperation is necessary between departments and agencies in addressing the social needs of the offenders in housing, income assistance, education and life skills, mental health, or addictions services.
What happens if someone commits another crime while in the program?
- There's no fixed amount of time - it depends on the circumstances of each offender. But generally, they can expect to spend about a year in the program.
Isn't this just another way of working around the existing system?
- That depends on the seriousness and circumstances of what happened. It could lead to more supervision, an extension of how long they'll be in the program, or in some cases, they could be removed from the program.
If someone takes part in the Wellness Court Program, does that mean their criminal charges go away?
- Not at all. This is a program within the conventional court and criminal justice system meant to work with people who are ready to take control of their lives, work hard, and change their futures. It won't be for everyone, and it isn't intended to be for everyone. However, it has the potential to help many people make productive choices going forward.
What support will offenders have after sentencing?
- No. Once the offenders plead guilty and enter the program, the charges are adjourned. After they complete the program, they will still need to appear before the court for sentencing. The Wellness Court will take into consideration their participation and achievements in their wellness plan when sentencing.
For more information:
- Recovery from or management of mental health issues, addictions, or cognitive challenges is a lifelong process. A smooth transition into aftercare is vital to the success of the offender, and the program. The last phase of the Wellness Court Program will be developing a transition plan for aftercare tailored to the needs of the offender.
- Aftercare to support the offender in maintaining a healthy, positive and productive lifestyle will commence approximately three months prior to the completion of their wellness plan.
Wellness Court Brochure
Wellness Court Pocket Brochure