People who commit drug-related crime are much less likely to re-offend if they are treated for their addiction instead of being sent to jail, a NSW study has found.
The research released on Thursday was conducted jointly by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research and the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of NSW.
It's centred on the Drug Court of NSW, a specialist court that deals with offences committed by defendants who have a drug addiction.
The researchers compared re-offending rates among people who went before the Drug Court with offenders who were eligible but did not. Offenders were followed for an average of 13.5 years.
Drug Court participants were found to have a 17 per cent lower reoffending rate than those not dealt with by the court.
They also took 22 per cent longer to commit a violent offence.
Professor Don Weatherburn, who led the study, said the results were remarkable given the profile of those dealt with by the court.
"It is important to remember that the Drug Court is not dealing with people who have simply dipped their toe on the water of crime," he said.
"A substantial proportion have committed serious offences and have long criminal records.
"Almost 1 in 20 of the treatment group had accumulated 15 or more convictions."
NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said the research showed the Drug Court was making a real difference by helping offenders steer clear of drugs and other crime through interventions like detoxification, counselling and monitoring.
"This means safer communities, while also providing offenders with a foundation from which to rebuild their lives," he said in a statement.
The Drug Court has been operating in NSW since 1999.
It's limited to drug dependant people living in western or southwestern Sydney who plead guilty to a non-violent summary offence and are likely to receive a prison sentence.
Australian Associated Press