OAS to work with CARICOM to promote Drug Treatment Courts

(CARICOM Secretariat, Guyana) – The Organization of American States (OAS) through the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) has given a firm commitment to continue working with the Caribbean Community to promote alternative treatment and rehabilitation programmes for drug dependent offenders in the Caribbean.

One such alternative is the introduction of Drug Treatment Courts (DTCs), which provide a combination of treatment with judicial supervision and oversight for drug dependent offenders.

Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), Secretariat for Multidimensional Security of the Organization of American States (OAS), Ambassador James F Mack made this announcement at the high-level Drug Treatment Court Training workshop which opened in Montego Bay, Jamaica on Wednesday (2nd February 2011).

“In the Organization of American States, he explained, “we are embracing the idea that courts and the law can be more than instruments of deterrence, incapacitation or retribution.   We are embracing the idea that the law and the courts can help improve the lives of offenders – and thereby society – and not simply punish.”

It is against this background that CICAD has declared its intention to continue to work with five CARICOM countries – Jamaica, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, The Bahamas and Barbados – in addition to supporting the creation of drug treatment courts in at least four other Latin American countries within the next two years.

“We believe that policies that help prevent crime, violence and drugs are just as vital to community well-being as law enforcement actions,” Ambassador Mack added.

This four-day workshop, according to the CICAD Executive Secretary is a concrete step in the direction of strengthening DTCS.  It has brought together judges prosecutors, defense attorneys, treatment providers, police and probation officers from Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago who are being trained by a team of international experts from Canada.

The training intervention, titled How to Establish and Consolidate Drug Treatment Courts in the Caribbean, a Team Effort, is organized in tandem with the Caribbean Community Secretariat, by the OAS, through CICAD and is funded by the Government of Canada and the 9th European Development Fund.

The joint initiative forms part of the Caribbean Drug Treatment Court Project designed to help curtail substance abuse and its social consequences in the Caribbean.

Last year, the New Hemispheric Drug Strategy was approved by all OAS Member States, and it is anticipated that in May of this year, the CICAD Commission will be approving a Hemispheric Plan of Action to implement the strategy. This will allow for full implementation of such programmes in OAS countries.

Ambassador Mack explained that while Drug Treatment Courts were not the magic bullet that would help all drug-dependent offenders, it offered a way out of the cycle of drugs and crime and was a potent means of addressing drug addiction and crime within the global community.

He added that statistics and studies had proved the successes of DTCs as a workable alternative cost-effective means of reducing crime, reducing repeat offenses, reducing relapse into drug use, and reducing the prison population.

In light of this, he advocated for strong treatment and rehabilitation programmes to complement the work of those courts, noting that without treatment “there is no drug treatment court and without the power and majesty of the bench, the offender’s adherence to an often lengthy course of drug treatment would probably be much harder.”

“Drug treatment and the justice system go hand in hand,” he averred.

In addition to the almost 2,500 drug courts in the United States, and the growing number of drug treatment courts in Canada, there are 19 courts operating in Chile, two in Jamaica, one each in Mexico, Bermuda, and the Cayman Islands; a pilot project in process in Suriname, and drug treatment court experiences in at least four states in Brazil.

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