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Drug Rehab May Be a Community Affair

Drug addicts may be able to attend community correction programs before moving to compulsory rehabilitation centers.

The country's first draft anti-drug law, submitted Thursday to the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee for second reading, says police can order drug addicts to attend community correction programs for up to three years.

Addicts refusing community help or failing community correction will be forced into compulsory isolation rehabilitation programs that can last up to another three years, says the draft law.

The draft stipulates neighborhood offices of city or township governments in rural areas should be responsible for community correction programs.

Forced rehabilitation treatment usually lasts three to six months now and it's the only choice for drug addicts. But lawmakers, law enforcement agencies and experts have often criticized the practice as being too merciless and too short to be effective.

During the legislation process, many lawmakers and experts had suggested rehabilitation measures be made more human-oriented, especially for new or light addicts, NPC Law Committee Deputy Director Hong Hu said in a report to the NPC Standing Committee.

"Therefore, we consider it necessary to make such a change," he said.

Also, the draft law advocates a "non-discriminatory environment" for people undergoing rehabilitation, which means they can have access to education, employment and social security support. It forbids rehabilitation centers from physically punishing or even verbally humiliating addicts.

Lawmakers have welcomed the latest revision. "It's a good change," said Xu Rongkai, deputy director of NPC's education, science, culture and health committee.

He said he had been working for many years in southwest China's Yunnan Province, where the drug problem is particularly serious.

"Yunnan, as far as I know, has more than 50 community rehabilitation centers. They have proved very effective," Xu said.

Beijing's first community drug rehabilitation center, the Sunflower Community, which provides not only detoxification treatment, but also behavior shaping, psychological rehabilitation and vocational training, has proved successful too.

Xiao Deng, a 29-year-old woman who took drugs for eight years, has been treated in many rehabilitation centers. And she said she likes the community model better.

"In the drug rehab centers that I have been before, addicts were mostly kept in rooms instead of being made to attend different activities like in the Sunflower Community," she said.

Lawmakers, however, did question the period of community correction programs. "I think three years is too long because community correction is still something new and many communities don't have enough resources," lawmaker Wen Shizhen said.

Other legislators suggested the law set detailed regulations on the use of substitute drugs in community correction programs.

(China Daily October 26, 2007)

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