Five drug offenders failed, while 11 today graduated from the inaugural Drug Treatment Court (DCT) Programme.
The graduates, including ten males and one female, ranged in age from 19 to 37.
During a graduation ceremony at the Supreme Court, attended by Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite and top judicial officials, High Court Justice Pamela Beckles explained that no conviction would be recorded against the graduates.
However, she pointed out that a number of persons did not complete the programme.
She mentioned two drug offenders who were still receiving psychiatric care and were discharged as a result of having mental health issues. Two others refused to submit themselves for random drug testing and were sent back to the respective magistrate for sentencing and one participant committed a serious offence and had since been incarcerated.
Beckles wished the graduates success and urged them to remember all they had learnt over the past year in the programme which she said came about “as a result of practical, creative, intuitive and frustrated judicial officers” who were “desperate to break the revolving door of an arrest, conviction, sentence and release, arrest again”.
Before Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, Country Representative for the Organisation of American States Francis McBarnette, family, friends, magistrates, judges, donors, counsellors, probation officers and other officials, Beckles, who spoke on The Barbados Experience said once it became obvious that drug dependency was “a chronic relapsing disorder that must be addressed and treated as a public health matter”, the criminal justice system needed to change in order to accommodate such offenders.
“The purpose of the DTC is to provide treatment alternative to incarceration for drug dependent offenders [and to divert them] from prison into treatment and rehabilitation under judicial supervision”, Justice Beckles said.
She explained that the Drug Treatment Court did not only operate on the willingness of the programme’s participants but also had the buy-in of all involved.
“All members of the team believe in the DTC concept and are available to appear in court on a consistent basis.”
The former chief magistrate, who was recently elevated to the High Court, also spoke of the sanctions and incentives which are used to encourage compliance with the programme. Some of the participants experienced, among other things, in-court admonishment, increased urine screens and revocation of bail for falling short of the requirements.
On the other hand, those who complied with the requirements were rewarded with in-court commendation, relaxed curfews and gift cards.