Three years after it was piloted, the Drug Treatment Court for Barbados (DTC) was this afternoon hailed as a success in “cleaning up” non-violent drug addicts.
Under the 18-month reform programme, participants are subjected to reform programmes instead of jail time, with a view to managing relapses into drug addiction, reducing the risk of repeat offences, lowering the prison population and decreasing Government expenditure on incarceration.
Speaking this afternoon at the end of the penultimate court session before graduation in December, the Organisation of American States (OAS) representative to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Francis McBarnette told Barbados TODAY the OAS, which supported the project in its three-year preparatory stage, was delighted with how the programme was progressing and was prepared to stick with it for the long haul.
“This is the second cohort of the Barbados Drug Treatment Court. In the first cohort, we started with 16 candidates and we graduated 11, ten males and one female. We’re now in our second cohort where we have 18 candidates and we are hoping to graduate them in December,” McBarnette said, while acknowledging that the second cohort had started with 25 candidates but seven candidates dropped out along the way.
The OAS ambassador said the initiative was being refined as it progressed and without being specific, he said the Maria Holder Memorial Trust had provided some funding this year that allowed the court to conduct skills training, life-expectancy programmes, anger management and jobs-skills training.
“So we not only giving them drug treatment, but we also giving them life-skills and helping them to be better citizens. So far it has gone excellently,” he said.
“At the moment, we are doing an evaluation with an outside body to see where there are gaps and how we can improve, and we are extremely happy with the progress of the court,” he added.
McBarnette also pointed out that there were similar courts in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago which he said were also doing well.
“We share knowledge and experience and we are trying to see what a difference we can make, particularly for non-violent offenders to make sure they return to their communities and become productive citizens.
“This is something in which we have heavily invested in and are committed to . . . . We are in it for the long haul. We are not going to run away from this issue at all,” he said.
Before today’s hearing got underway in the Number 3 Supreme Court this afternoon, Magistrate Graveney Bannister presented rewards to nine of the 18 candidates who have so far fulfilled the requirements of the programme. And with the final court session of the court scheduled for November 8 ahead of graduation, Bannister advised the awardees not to “mess up now”.
He also urged the participants to remain focused and to ensure they were able to complete the reform exercise.