Key messages

  • Forensic clients are people who access alcohol and other drug treatment as a result of their contact with the criminal justice system.
  • The majority of forensic clients are mandated to attend treatment as a condition of their order or diversion.
  • The Department of Health & Human Services funds the assessment and treatment for all community-based forensic clients across the state.
  • Alcohol and other drug treatment for forensic clients is aimed at reducing the harms associated with alcohol and other drug misuse, including the related offending behaviour.
  • Forensic alcohol and other drug treatment is part of the broader alcohol and other drug treatment system and clients and includes specific targeted programs as well as prioritised access to general community, withdrawal and rehabilitation programs.

Intake and assessment for forensic clients

Australian Community Support Organisation’s (ACSO) Community Offenders Advice and Treatment Services (COATS) program undertakes the majority of forensic intake and assessment services for forensic clients. This is the case for clients referred through Community Corrections and the Adult Parole Board.

Assessments are undertaken within two to five days of referral according to identified levels of risk, using a forensic version of the standardised screening and assessment tool and include treatment planning and brokerage of treatment.

Catchment-based intake and assessment services provide screening, assessment and brief intervention services for diversion clients. These include people referred by the Drug Diversion Appointment Line (DDAL), the Court Referral and Evaluation for Drug Intervention and Treatment (CREDIT) program, the Court Integrated Services Program (CISP) and other clients seeking treatment to address the alcohol and other drug-related offending behaviour.

Forensic-specific programs for alcohol and other drug treatment

Forensic clients are referred to the full range of treatment services including counselling, withdrawal, care and recovery coordination, rehabilitation and youth and Aboriginal specific services.

In addition there are a range of forensic-specific programs and initiatives that are particularly targeted at addressing alcohol and other drug use in relation to offending behaviour.

Australian Community Support Organisation (ACSO) is a statewide government-funded service provider, providing specialist drug and alcohol screening, assessment, treatment planning and brokerage of alcohol and other drug treatment for clients referred from the criminal justice system under the Community Offenders Advice and Treatment Services (COATS) program.

As a result of referral from Community Corrections, the courts, police or the Parole Board, COATS undertakes assessment, provides a treatment plan and brokers any necessary treatment from community-based treatment services for forensic clients who have come into contact with the criminal justice system or who are at risk of doing so.


The Responsive, Assessment, Planning, Intervention and Diversion Service (RAPIDS) is operated by ACSO and provides a same day assessment service for clients presenting to court at high risk to themselves or others. The service includes the provision of the bridging support to these clients while awaiting access to treatment services.


Torque is a six-week non-residential rehabilitation program located in Coburg for people currently engaged in the justice system that offers treatment and support for problematic alcohol and other drug use. The aim of the program is to help people develop coping skills and maintain motivation to cease or reduce their substance use.

Most activities are scheduled between 9.30 am and 3.30 pm, and include some evening activities. Up to 12 people participate in the program at any one time.


The High Risk Offenders Alcohol and Drug Service (HiROADS) specifically address the treatment needs of offenders with serious violent and sexual offending and with a high risk of recidivism and relapse, a history of non-compliance or difficulties engaging in treatment.

The service is provided by Caraniche and is accessed on referral from COATS, Community Corrections and other service providers.

Drink and drug driver program

The Victorian Accredited Driver Education Program (Drink Driver and Drug Driver Services) involves a range of measures including: attending an education program; provision of comprehensive assessments and preparation of licence eligibility reports; and alcohol interlock condition removal order reports for the Court.

Offenders are required to attend some or all components of the program depending on the nature of the offences committed. Offenders convicted of a specific drink-drive, drug-drive or combined drink and drug-drive offence should note that licence restoration is not automatic.

Offenders are advised to contact DirectLine on 1800 888 236 for details regarding an accredited drink/drug drive education program and assessment service provider.


StepOut is a free voluntary program for people on straight release (not on parole or remand) in Victoria and who choose to have drug and alcohol treatment on release from custody. The program is provided by COATS and supports the transition from prison into the community.

The service provides in-prison assessment and, where appropriate, links clients to intensive counselling and case management services under a treatment plan developed with each client.

Diversion programs

Cannabis cautioning program

The cannabis cautioning program is a police diversion program. Police provide a cautioning notice for simple use/possess cannabis offences to offenders aged 17 years and over. The offender must only be in possession of a small (non-trafficable) amount of cannabis, admit to the offence and consent to being cautioned.

A person can accumulate only two cautions. A voluntary cannabis education program is available to accompany the caution. This program is currently available in 15 locations across Victoria, in both metropolitan and rural areas, and is also open to friends and family members.

Drug Diversion Program

People apprehended by the police for use or possession of an illicit drug other than cannabis may be offered a caution on the condition that they undertake a clinical- drug assessment and attend at least one session of any prescribed drug treatment.

To be eligible for a caution under the Drug Diversion Program, the person must:

  • be over 10 years of age
  • be arrested for the use and/or possession of a small (non-trafficable) amount of illicit drugs other than cannabis
  • admit to the offence
  • not have received any more than one previous cautioning notice (including a cannabis caution).

The drug diversion caution no longer applies when the offender has attended both the clinical-drug assessment and one treatment session.

First Offender’s Court Intervention Service

The First Offender’s Court Intervention Service, known as FOCiS, is a drug-education program for first-time offenders sentenced to the program by the Victorian Magistrates’ Court.

Attendance is compulsory for people placed on an undertaking with conditions or on a Diversion Plan with attendance as a condition. Non-attendance is likely to result in a return to the Magistrates' Court.

The program is delivered at several metropolitan and country centres across Victoria.

Children's Court Clinic Drug Program

The Children’s Court Clinic Drug Program provides early intervention drug treatment for young people appearing in the criminal division of the court who have demonstrated substance misuse.

The program aims to:

  • divert young offenders who have a drug problem from further involvement in the criminal justice process, through participation in drug-treatment programs
  • develop a commitment on the part of young drug users to harm minimisation practices and drug treatment
  • reduce the risk of further criminal activity to support drug use.

The Children’s Court Clinic Drug Program is a statewide service and is brokered by COATS or a local community drug-service provider.

Family Drug Treatment Court

The Family Drug Treatment Court is a three-year pilot program in the Children's Court that aims to help parents who have had their children removed under a Child Protection Order to stop using drugs/alcohol and promote family reunification.

The multidisciplinary team comprises drug and alcohol clinicians and a dedicated social worker for up to 12 months.


The Court Referral and Evaluation for Drug Intervention and Treatment and Bail Support Program (CREDIT / Bail Support Program), provides clients with access to case management, drug treatment, transitional accommodation, material aid and other health, welfare, legal and community supports. It aims to increase the likelihood of a person being granted bail and successfully completing their bail period.

The CREDIT / Bail Support Program currently operates at eight court locations across Victoria: Ballarat, Broadmeadows, Dandenong, Frankston, Geelong, Heidelberg, Moorabbin and Ringwood.


The Court Integrated Services Program (CISP) provides accused people with access to services and support to reduce rates of re-offending and promote safer communities. The program currently operates at the Latrobe Valley, Melbourne and Sunshine Magistrates’ Courts and is due to expand to further courts in 2015/16.

Over a four-month period, it aims to provide short-term assistance before sentencing for accused with health and social needs, work on the causes of offending through individualised case management, provide priority access to treatment and community support services and reduce the likelihood of re-offending.


The Assessment and Referral Court List (the List) is a specialist court list developed by the Department of Justice and the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria to meet the needs of accused people who have a mental illness and/or a cognitive impairment.

The List is located at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court and is used collaboratively with the CISP, which provides case management to participants. Case management may include psychological assessment, referral to welfare, health, mental health, disability, housing services and/or drug and alcohol treatment.