Twelve people are being monitored by Barbados’ Drug Treatment Court which held its first session this week at the Supreme Court.
And Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite said today that while people in some quarters have questioned how effective such a court would be, he believed it was better to treat the root cause of crime than simply send all drug offenders to prison.
The Drug Treatment Court is a Magistrates’ Court, and persons charged with non-violent related offences, whose drug addiction or dependency is a factor in the commission of their crimes, are eligible to participate in the programme.
The cases of the 12 participants –– 11 males and one female –– were each reviewed during a pre-court meeting by a team comprising officials from the Probation Department, the Forensic Sciences Centre, treatment providers, a police prosecutor, defence attorneys, and Chief Magistrate Pamela Beckles who is presiding over the court. During that meeting, recommendations on how each individual participant should be treated were also discussed.
“This is something that we have been working on for the last two years . . . I say that if you can treat the root cause of an individual getting involved in crime, then that is what you should do, as opposed to sending him to Dodds and let him spend time up there,” Brathwaite said as he addressed the official opening of the new offices of the National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA) at the corner of 1st Avenue Belleville, St Michael.
“We still have challenges in terms of ‘how do we respond to the nature of the substance abuse that must have brought the individual to Dodds?’ That is another area that we are going to flag this year to see how we can do more with the individuals who are incarcerated. I am very happy that we have reached a stage where we can intervene to prevent individuals from coming into our prison system and returning to the block . . . We are going to see how we can intervene more in the prison system to assist more individuals who are abusers of legal and illegal substances. It is no use being in prison, coming back to the society and the first thing they do is go back to the block and start taking drugs all over again. So we need to address that vicious circle,” Brathwaite added.
The first formal sitting of the court represented the culmination of three years of preparatory work by a multidisciplinary team of professionals including representatives from the Bar Association; treatment providers at Counselling Addiction Support Alternatives (CASA) and Verdun House; the Royal Barbados Police Force; the Probation Department; the Ministry of Health; the Forensic Sciences Centre; the Office of the Attorney General and the NCSA.
The session was witnessed by Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, Brathwaite, High Court Justice Randall Worrell, High Commissioner of Canada to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Richard Hanley; transnational crime specialist Julie Heumphreus; narcotic affairs officer at the US Embassy Robert McDonald, Country Representative of the OAS Ambassador Francis McBarnette; and several senior judicial officials.
The Barbados Drug Treatment Court will convene again on February 11.