Barbados will have that long-mooted drug treatment court in place this year, thanks to funding from a $3 million regional initiative from the United States Government.
Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite revealed the general commencement timeframe to Barbados TODAY this morning, shortly after signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Organisation of American States, through its Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission at his Wildey, St. Michael office, for the implementation of the court.
Brathwaite said that while all of the requisite players were engaged for him to “press the green light”, for the court, he still needed to have a first-hand look at the drug rehabilitation centre at Verdun House, in St. John as soon as possible. He pointed out that the existing High Court would be used to accommodate the special sittings of the drug treatment court.
“If we can save one individual, then our efforts would be worth it,” the attorney general observed, explaining the rationale for a separate court for persons accused of non-violent or minor drug-related offences.
“Given what is happening in our court system, given what is happening in our countries, we need to find some other initiatives as incarceration alone isn’t going to do it, and not every individual that came in contact with the criminal justice system, as a result of drugs … do we need to send them into prison, or can we assist them outside and prevent going into prison … That is your choice.
“Your choice is you can either have incarceration, and then do some kind of initiative within the prison system, or in worthy cases, you do the intervention outside of the prison system, and give the individuals a chance to carry on their lives.”
Brathwaite argued that while some persons questioned the wisdom of establishing a drug treatment court, his position was that one always had to treat the root cause, rather than seeking to intervene at the end.
“And we’re not going to get it right, if we just wait until persons go to Dodds (Prison), and try to assist them,” the minister added.
He thanked the OAS, CICAD, the US and Canada for their assistance in helping Barbados in this venture during the past year.
“We are not there yet, there are still a couple things we need to do,” Brathwaite said. “We still need to ensure we have all our ducks lined up, that we have all the requisite treatment facilities, that we in fact are aware of any costs associated, that where the costs as going to be met, that in fact, we have all the right personnel.”
He acknowledged that drugs, particularly marijuana, were a big problem in Barbados, and that the proposed court was only part of the Government’s overall strategy. Brathwaite suggested that the National Council on Substance Abuse and the country as a whole, had to examine what else they could do to save more of the island’s youth.
He noted that young people were suggesting to him to legalise marijuana, considering it seemed the thing to do and referring him to the US where some states had done so. (EJ)††