Drug Courts Making an Impact

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Jamaica News: Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, says the Drug Treatment Courts across the island are making an impact in transforming the lives of drug-dependent offenders.

He cited the 2017 report from the drug court in Manchester, which pointed to “improvement in the participants’ behaviour as the court authorities monitor their treatment”.

He said the report further highlighted increased support and court attendance by family members of offenders.

Minister Chuck was speaking at the opening of a two-day training workshop on alternatives to incarceration for individuals with a substance-abuse disorder, at his Constant Spring Road offices in St. Andrew on Wednesday (October 17).

The Drug Treatment Courts provide for treatment and rehabilitation of persons with drug/substance-abuse problems, under judicial supervision.

Focus is placed on non-violent criminal offenders, who are identified soon after arrest and placed in the programme at their consent. Regular drug tests are conducted in order to monitor their progress.

The intervention involves the participation of judges, prosecutors, defence counsel, substance-abuse specialists and law-enforcement personnel.

Minister Chuck, in hailing the work of the drug courts, said that providing assistance for persons with substance-abuse problems is a crucial focus of the Ministry in alleviating the pressure on the justice system.

He argued that Jamaica, like many countries around the world, has had to grapple with the reality that a number of persons who are brought before the criminal courts are suffering from substance-abuse problems, which may have influenced their criminal behaviour.

“Many of these persons were non-violent offenders, who repeatedly pass through the courts and probationary systems without being held accountable for changing their behaviour and, therefore, followed a predictable cycle of arrest, prosecution, conviction, incarceration and release, only to return to the courts again,” he pointed out.

He implored the authorities at the drug courts to remain steadfast in “engaging the community, going into schools, visiting the street corners” and spreading the message of drug-abuse prevention.

Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, for his part, pointed out that the establishment of the drug courts was in recognition that a new approach was required in dealing with offenders that places them in rehabilitation rather than behind bars.

He said national drug-prevention efforts need to incorporate best practices such as sustained interventions across developmental stages that include families and communities.

Dr. Tufton said that greater emphasis must be placed on building the capacity of teachers and guidance counsellors to detect risks and problems early, and interventions in the primary healthcare setting to address adolescent substance abuse before they advance into misuse and high-risk behaviour that may lead to criminal activity.

He welcomed the staging of the workshop in assisting these efforts.

The two-day session involved partnership with the United States Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), and the Organization of American States (OAS), among others.

It provided training to health and justice sectors personnel on alternatives to incarceration for non-violent drug offenders.

The objective is to develop a local plan of action that will better enable offenders to access treatment alternatives instead of incarceration, and to break the cycle of criminal behaviour, alcohol and drug use, and imprisonment.


Source: JIS News

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