The illegal trade and use of drugs is extremely costly to Government. In fact, Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson said that between 2009 and 2014 taxpayers had pumped $35 million into housing criminals who commit drug-related offences.
The Minister made this disclosure as he led off the debate on The National Council on Substance Abuse (Amendment) Bill 2019 in the House of Assembly today.
“The economic and social cost of illegal substance abuse on our population is inestimable. You really can’t estimate or quantify the financial cost,” he said.
Referring to a Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit study which links early marijuana use and criminal behaviour, Hinkson pointed out that S35 million was used in a six-year period to house persons at Dodds.
“It clearly has economic repercussions. We don’t have the money at this stage to deal with this. We surely need the money for other areas of social development. In 2014 the unit delivered a report that said over the last six years on average between 2009 and 2014, Government spent $35 million on housing persons in prison for drug-related offences.”
He continued: “Thirty-five million dollars could buy so many houses, not only in St James North, but all over Barbados. It could repair roads. I am sure that the honourable members for Christ Church West and St Lucy can use that to repair some of the 70 per cent of roads in disrepair that we found a year ago when we came into office.”
The St James North MP added: “…Schools for people with disabilities and children that need interventions at an academic level. We could use it to assist those who need greater rehabilitation… first-time offenders; our social welfare to give to those who can’t help themselves…
“It could be used to help elderly persons with disabilities; those who can’t live on their own. All of this, this $35 million could have been useful if we had this in Parliament two months ago before Estimates. We would have found tremendously useful ways to deal with it, rather than have to deal now with housing people in prison on drug related offences,” he told Parliament.
Citing the report, Hinkson stated “Over 50 per cent of persons in prison have an underlying drug abuse problem and have been convicted for drug-related offences.”
However, he said his Government would not be daunted by the task ahead but will do everything in its power to tackle the drug fight headon.
“We, as a Government, have to tackle this on many fronts. It’s not just the economics, but the wider social problem. The National Council on Substance Abuse is part of that fight. We at the Ministry of Home Affairs will give them the support to carry out that fight.”