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First Graduates of Pilot Drug Treatment Court

 

Trinidad and Tobago Comes Full Circle with OAS Support, Welcoming First Graduates of Pilot Drug Treatment Court

Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago:  July 10th, 2014

After learning of Drug Treatment Courts (DTCs) in 2011 and launching a San Fernando pilot DTC in September of 2012, Trinidad & Tobago will witness the graduation of the program's first participants this Thursday at 1pm, at the Hilton Hotel in Port of Spain. The five graduates of the pilot program, the first under the OAS's Drug Treatment Courts for the Americas initiative, are all from the San Fernando area of Trinidad and will complete the program after meeting rigorous treatment and judicial requirements. For Trinidad & Tobago, this graduation represents the culmination of a nearly three-year effort in development and implementation of the DTC model, achieving successful inter-agency cooperation and important steps in therapeutic justice while becoming a regional model for good practices in DTC operation. With Thursday's graduates and future graduates in mind, the Executive Secretariat of CICAD/OAS will continue to work with Trinidad & Tobago, providing technical assistance, monitoring and evaluation in order to fully understand the efficacy of the pilot program as the country and region consider expansion of the model based on positive results.

Speaking at the graduation ceremony will be Chief Justice of Trinidad & Tobago the Hon. Ivor Archie, Hon. Justice Malcolm Holdip, Hon. Justice Geoffrey Henderson, and Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar. From the international community, Ambassador Paul Simons, Executive Secretary of CICAD will speak on behalf of the OAS, with High Commissioner of Canada to Trinidad and Tobago, H.E. Gerard Latulippe, and Canadian Justice Kofi Barnes, Chairman of the Canadian Association of Drug Treatment Court Professionals (CADTCP) will also participate.

According to Ambassador Paul Simons, "We are changing paradigms and helping to build institutionality through the DTC program. Participating countries are promoting synergies between agencies and ministries, working to change the status quo, and exploring new ways to do justice while respecting human rights and the needs of individuals who committed offenses, but who also suffer from the disease of addiction".

Chief Justice Archie stated that "Current trends in the justice sector speak to the need for increasing levels of crime being met with intelligent and innovative responses. The DTC can be described as an innovative response, with its establishment we are reducing the harm associated with crime while combating a much deeper rooted problem - the disease of addiction. This method supports a movement away from the general punitive approach to crime to a more focused preventative and restorative strategy. We are in essence reducing the severity and incidence of crimes associated with drug abuse for offenders who, for the time being, are not violent."

OAS Drug Treatment Court Program for the Americas is supporting OAS member states to promote DTCs as alternatives to incarceration. When the program started, only 4 countries in the Americas had this model in place. 15 OAS Member states are currently exploring, implementing or expanding this model under this initiative.

The San Fernando DTC pilot program was launched on the 11th of September, 2012, with the first participants admitted into the program some months later (making Trinidad & Tobago the first country to launch, implement, and produce graduates under the OAS' DTCs for the Americas Program, with Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, and Barbados close behind).  In introducing the concept of drug treatment courts as an alternative to incarceration for drug dependent offenders, Chief Justice Archie noted that the experience in the hemisphere and particularly in Jamaica (which had previously launched DTCs in 2001) had shown that the approach ultimately leads to significant reduction in the number of repeat offenders, and a resultant decrease in the number of prisoners and persons appearing before the Courts. According to the statistics of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service arrests for drug related offences exceed 5,000 annually, with implications for backlogs in the court system, cost of incarceration, recidivism, and public health. Drug Treatment Courts have proven successful in other countries (Jamaica, United States, Canada, Chile, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Mexico, Australia, Belgium, Ireland, and the UK).

Efforts to establish this pilot program required a multi-sectoral approach involving various levels of the government represented on a Steering Committee convened by the Chief Justice comprising the Judiciary, the Magistracy, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Ministry of National Security including the Police and the National Drug Council (NDC), the Ministry of Justice - the Prisons Service, the Legal Unit and the Forensic Sciences Centre, te Probation Depatment, and the Ministry of Health. Throughout 2011-2014, Trinidad and Tobago has participated in various international activities (information and training workshops, exchanges of good practices, technical assistance), carried out by the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), of the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security, as part of the OAS Drug Treatment Court Program for the Americas. In the case of the DTC model in the Caribbean, this has been mainly possible thanks to the financial support and contributions of the Government of Canada through the Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program (ACCBP). It has been through these activities that judges, prosecutors, defence attorneys, police and probation officers, treatment providers, as well as policy makers involved in this process were able to observe, analyse, and study the model in various countries were DTCs are already operational. This has also been possible thanks to the support of various organizations like the CARICOM Secretariat, and PAHO, together with experts from Canada, and the United States.

For more information about this initiative, contact Antonio Lomba

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updated on 7/10/2014 4:31:19 PM