More Drug Treatment Courts

Photo: Donald De La Haye Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck (centre); and State Minister for National Security, Senator the Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr. (right), engage in discussion with (from left), Chief Justice, Hon. Zaila McCalla; Acting Supreme Court Judge, Stephane Jackson-Haisley; and Representative of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Jamaica, Jeanelle van Glaanen Weygel. Occasion was the opening of a three-day regional workshop on drug treatment courts at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on September 6.

Story Highlights

  • Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, says the Government is looking at expanding its treatment services to offenders with substance-abuse problems, by establishing drug treatment courts in all parishes.
  • The Minister was addressing the opening of a three-day regional workshop on drug treatment courts at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on September 6.
  • The Minister argued that more resources must be diverted to projects such as the drug treatment courts to strengthen the infrastructure for therapeutic jurisprudence as an effective alternative to incarceration.

Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, says the Government is looking at expanding its treatment services to offenders with substance-abuse problems, by establishing drug treatment courts in all parishes.

The courts, which are currently operating in five parishes, provide an alternative to incarceration for drug-dependent offenders, where they benefit from treatment and rehabilitation under judicial supervision.

The Minister was addressing the opening of a three-day regional workshop on drug treatment courts at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on September 6.

Mr. Chuck said an expansion of the programme will require collaboration with the Health Ministry and support from health practitioners in the private sector.

“The real challenge is to find more psychiatrists and psychologists making themselves available to participate in this programme. I will be speaking to my colleague Minister of Health to provide some additional resources, so we can use persons in the private sector, so that every parish can have at least one day per month to have a drug treatment court,” he said.

Mr. Chuck pointed out that the intention to expand the courts was prompted by a request from the parish court judges, who have recognised that when drug offenders come before them, “it’s not a jail term that they need, they need medical assistance and we are hoping that before long this can in fact be done”.

“The drug treatment court is one of the clear lessons how we can achieve change in an atmosphere of compassion and caring, encouraging and rewarding behaviour change while being firm when there are breaches,” he said.

The Minister argued that more resources must be diverted to projects such as the drug treatment courts to strengthen the infrastructure for therapeutic jurisprudence as an effective alternative to incarceration.

“It is evident that we need more than good policing, successful prosecution and lengthy jail time to heal individuals, families, communities and our countries. The Drug Treatment Programme strikes the right balance between holding individuals accountable and helping them to do better and be better humans,” he said.

According to the Organization of American States (OAS), treatment alternatives to incarceration can help break the cycle of criminal behaviour, alcohol and drug use, and imprisonment.

In various countries, drug treatment courts have proven to effectively reduce crime, relapse into drug use, the prison population, and they are also cost-effective.

In the meantime, State Minister for National Security, Senator the Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr., welcomed the regional approach to the drug-abuse issue, through the staging of the workshop, noting that it is “yet another step in the right direction” in tackling the problem.

“I’m so pleased to see that we are here having these discussions. We need to ensure that we continue to communicate to the country… so people can know where they can go to get assistance, and they can know that the system is contemplating these (alternatives), not just to lock up, but to make the smart decisions for our people,” he said.

Hosted by the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS), and the Government of Jamaica, the three-day workshop focuses on the expansion of drug treatment courts in the Caribbean.

The workshop is also intended to train experts from the health and justice sectors on drug treatment courts as an alternative to incarceration for drug offences for juveniles and adults.

It is organised by the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA), the Court Management Services, and the Executive Secretariat of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), with the support of the CARICOM Secretariat and the Government of Canada.

Delegates from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago are in attendance.

JIS Social