Drug Treatment Courts in the Caribbean

OAS and CARICOM Promote Drug Treatment Courts in the Caribbean

"Establishing and consolidating Drug Treatment Courts in the Caribbean: a team effort "a project funded by the Government of Canada through the Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program (ACCBP)

Montego Bay, February 2011

More than seventy judges and other representatives from the judiciary system in the Caribbean participated in a high-level training conference for establishing and consolidating Drug Treatment Courts in the region. This conference took place in Montego Bay, Jamaica, from February 2nd to the 5th, 2011.

The training session, titled, “Establishing and Consolidating Drug Treatment Courts in the Caribbean: a Team Effort,” was among the first activities organized under the umbrella of the recently launched Caribbean Drug Treatment Court (DTC) project, an initiative coordinated by the Organization of the American States (OAS), through the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), supported by CARICOM and funded by the Government of Canada.

The high-level conference brought together judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, treatment providers, and probation officers from Jamaica, as well as Drug Treatment Court teams from Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago who will be trained by Canadian experts.

The opening brought together Zaila McCalla ,Chief Justice of Jamaica; Mr. Albert Edwards, Chief Parliamentary Council of Jamaica; Steve Ashley, Deputy Chairman of the National Council of Drug Abuse of Jamaica; James F. Mack, CICAD Executive Secretary; and Myrna Bernard, Officer in Charge of Human and Social Development at the CARICOM Secretariat.

The slate of speakers at the ceremony endorsed Drug Treatment Courts (DTCs) as a workable alternative in easing the social and economic burdens of countries and reducing the backlog of cases that often clog the court system in many countries.

Leading the charge of speakers was Jamaica’s Chief Justice Zaila McCalla who asserted that DTC’s did not only provide a second chance for persons addicted to drugs who were determined to change their lifestyle but served to assist in the fight to reduce crime and violence and to reduce the backlog of cases in the courts. Pointing to what she described as ‘monumental changes’ in the lives of participants of the two DTC’s in Jamaica, the Chief Justice of Jamaica made a strong call for the establishment of more DTCs in her country and for more resources to strengthen the existing ones.

Ambassador James F. Mack, Executive Secretary of CICAD, agreed that DTCs were one means of addressing drug addiction and crime in communities, countries and the hemisphere. He expressed his organisation’s commitment to working with at least five CARICOM and four other Latin American countries in strengthening their DTCs, conceding that while drug treatment courts were not the magic bullet that would help all drug-dependent offenders, for some, they offered a way out of the cycle of drugs and crime.

Miss Myrna Bernard, Officer in Charge of the Human and Social Development Directorate in the CARICOM Secretariat stated that the negative social and economic impact of drug related crimes on the Community was a major cause for concern among Heads of Government.

She also expressed concern about the growing population of young people within CARICOM who were affected by substance abuse and agreed that “the paradigm shift away from routine imprisonment of drug offenders, to alternatives offered through drug courts should be considered, given the successes reported with this strategy.”

Ms Bernard further noted that the cultural dimension should be considered in establishing drug courts viewed this as an opportunity for strengthening functional cooperation among Member States.

The training workshop is being fully supported by the Government of Jamaica through the Ministries of Justice and Health and the National Council for Drug Abuse.

In this regard, Chief Parliamentary Counsel in the Ministry of Justice, Mr Albert Edwards who represented Jamaica’s Minister of Justice, Senator the Honourable Dorothy Lightbourne noted that the increasing incidence of drug abuse had caused more serious crime and social consequences in Jamaica, as abusers sought more creative ways to fund their addiction. Those social consequences, he stated, had placed a strain on Jamaica’s civil and criminal justice system. It was in recognition of this, he said, that Jamaica had established two DTCs as well as treatment and rehabilitation programs to complement the work of the drug courts.

In addition, Deputy Chairman of NCDA in pledging the Council’s support to DTCs asserted that the archaic approach of incarceration has proved in many instances to be counter-productive in producing hardened criminals with its attendant consequences and called on the Jamaica Government to appreciate the importance of DTCs “not just as a social tool in enhancing civility in the society but as an economic tool that could influence the country’s development.”

This initiative is being executed under the umbrella of OAS´s DTC-Americas Initiative. DTC-Caribbean is being carried out by the Organization of the American States (OAS) through the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) of the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security (SMS) and funded by the Government of Canada through the Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program (ACCBP), and administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT).Some strategic partners: Canadian Association of Drug Treatment Court Professionals (CADTC) and the International Association of Drug Treatment Courts (IADTC)

updated on 3/22/2012 10:55:21 AM