How does it work?
First, 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.
What is considered a successful outcome?
While crime reduction is a central focus of the Wellness Court Program, success for a participant is overcoming challenges in order to realize positive growth.
Who is eligible to participate?
A person charged with one or more offences under the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act may be eligible for Wellness Court. Crown counsel determines initial eligibility based on the charges and circumstances and not all charges will be eligible.
Who else is involved in the Wellness Court?
Wellness Court 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.
Is participation limited to offences committed in Yellowknife?
No, but participants are required to live in Yellowknife for the duration of their program.
How long does the process take?
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 under supervision.
What happens if someone commits another crime while under Wellness Court Supervision?
That depends on the seriousness and circumstances of what happened. It could lead to more conditions while under supervision, an extension of how long they'll be under supervision, or in some cases, they could be removed from Wellness Court.
Isn't this just another way of working around the existing system?
Not at all. Wellness Court works within the conventional court and criminal justice system and is 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.
If someone takes part in Wellness Court, does that mean their criminal charges go away?
No. Once the offenders plead guilty the charges are adjourned. After they complete their wellness plan, 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.
What support will offenders have after sentencing?
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 their wellness plan. The last phase of the wellness plan will be developing a transition plan for aftercare tailored to the needs of the offender.
Aftercare planning 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.
Is this the only specialized court in the NWT?
No. The Domestic Violence Treatment Options Court has been in operation since 2011.