AG Gives Go Ahead For Drug Court Facility

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From left: Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite; OAS Representative in Barbados, Francis McBarnette; Justice Kofi Barnes of the Ontario Court of Justice, Canada; and High Commissioner of Canada in Barbados, Ruth Archibald, at the opening of the workshop. (A.??Miller/BGIS)??

Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite, has given the ???go ahead’, for the establishment of a Drug Treatment Court (DTC) facility in Barbados in a bid to save "as many young men and women as possible" who have been charged with simple drug possession.

He stated that the setting up of such a facility would significantly reduce the "number of offenders returning to prison from time to time."

The Attorney General was speaking this morning at the opening ceremony of a two- day sensitisation workshop at the Hilton Barbados, which is on DTCs, an alternative to incarceration for drug dependent offenders.

His audience included members of the legal fraternity, judges of the high court, substance abuse counselors, social workers and representatives from the Ontario Court of Justice and the Organization of American States.

Mr. Brathwaite pointed out that depending on whose research was used the rate was either 50 or 60 percent in terms of recidivism which created a significant challenge, and Government needed to arrest whatever reason that was causing more of our young men and women to return to prison.

Mr. Brathwaite noted that a look at the statistics between 2010 and now revealed that, "somewhere between 18.5 and 20 percent of connected offenders are drug related offences.

"I believe that when you drill down into the other crimes like burglary, robbery etc…our percentage would be even more.?? So, we need to look at the root cause and if the root cause is drug related then we need to find out how we can wean more of our young men and women off drugs and that should translate into them committing less crimes."

Director of the National Substance Abuse, Yolande Forde, stated that a study conducted in Barbados in 1997 revealed that 86 percent of the men in prison at that time used illegal drugs.?? And, she disclosed that "statistically, this ranked drug use as the single most significant correlate to criminal behaviour and imprisonment in Barbados."

Ms. Forde noted that policy makers could no longer ignore the fact that a narrow, punitive approach to drug abusing offenders had just not been as effective as the legal and judicial authorities would have wished.

She implied that "traditional approaches characterised by typical criminal justice responses to incidents of crime-apprehension, prosecution, court adjudication, sentencing and punishment- just have not had the desired effect in terms of general or individual deterrence when it comes to drug-abusing offenders."

Meanwhile, Organization of American States (OAS) representative, Francis McBarnette, acknowledged that "for some jurisdictions the DTC model has proven effective in reducing crime; reducing relapse into drug use, reducing prison populations and reducing cost."

He explained that the OAS, through the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission, continued to work with a number of organisations around the globe to identify innovations and good practices in an effort to address the needs of drug dependent offenders.

Bahamas, Jamaica, Argentina, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica have already implemented the DTC model and Trinidad and Tobago will be setting up one before year-end.

theresa.blackman@barbados.gov.bb

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