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Drug Treatment Court coming
By Regina Selman Moore
When it comes to the establishment of a Drug Treatment Court on the island, there are few factors that could hinder it from coming on stream in a few months.
This was the information delivered by Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite, while giving the feature address at a “Sensitisation Workshop on Drug Treatment Courts”, focusing on such facilities as “An Alternative to Incarceration for Drug Dependent Offenders”. The two-day session, which will wrap up today, is being hosted under the auspices of the National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA) at the Hilton Hotel.
During the opening ceremony yesterday, the Attorney General pledged his commitment to the establishment of such a facility in Barbados, suggesting that the Drug Treatment Court could aid in reducing the level of crime in society as well as the recidivism rate.
“From my end, I have bought into the concept of a drug treatment court. I believe our role is to save as many of our young men and young women as possible. I believe that giving (Lieutenant) Colonel (John) Nurse, Superintendent of Prisons more work to do is not necessarily the best thing for Barbados. What we should be doing, is trying to reduce the number of offenders who are returning to prison from time to time” the AG said.
“Presently, depending on whose research you look at, the rate is either between 50 per cent or 60 per cent, in terms of recidivism, which creates to me a significant challenge [and] we need to arrest whatever is causing more of our young men and women to return to prison,” Brathwaite commented.
“I’ve looked at the statistics between 2010 and presently and somewhere between 18.5 per cent and 20 per cent of the crimes of convicted offenders are drug related offences and I believe that when we drill down into their other crimes, like burglary, robbery etc., that in fact, that percentage would probably be even more.
“So we need to look at the root cause and if the root cause is drug related, then we need to find out how we can wean more of our young men and women off drugs and that should translate into them committing less crime in our society” the Minister maintained.
The AG acknowledged, however, that stakeholders involved in the Court’s establishment will have to be passionate about it and there will need to be greater buy-in for all involved, in the face of a few logistical challenges.
He however stressed that no new facility is needed for the project and in essence, systems are already in place to allow it to come on stream.
“I believe that in Barbados, we can implement a Drug Treatment Court without any additional costs, because we are in essence doing it, but we are doing it in a disjointed way,” he remarked, noting that key personnel such as prosecutors, defence attorneys, probation officers, psychologists, psychiatrists and court personnel are already involved.
“What the court will do is enable us to sit down as a team and do exactly what we are presently doing, but with one objective, the objective is that we want to save the participant – not the defendant, not the criminal, the participant,” he said.
“There should be no additional costs, no addition personnel, no reason why Barbados should not be able to establish a Drug Treatment facility within the next couple of months. We do not need a new building. What we need is to ensure that the personnel understand their role and buy in, because it will take a bit of passion.
“It is not the kind of facility that you can do from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. You will need to buy-in to what you are doing, you will need to ensure that if you are called upon to assist on a Saturday or a Sunday, whatever time or whatever it takes, that indeed that you see it as part of your responsibility,” the AG stressed to stakeholders gathered.
“If we only save one person from committing another offence, the effort to me would be worth it. I am satisfied however that we will be able to save more than one person. That we will be able to save a significant number of our young people if we go this route, by attacking the root cause of why they come to the criminal justice system. I am very convinced about that,” he concluded.