The long promised Drug Treatment Court for Barbados has been launched.

The pilot phase of the court, which offers an alternative to incarceration for drug abusing offenders, was officially launched today during a ceremony at the Supreme Court Complex.

And, Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite, has thrown his full support behind the court, noting that today???s launch was a manifestation of a promise made two years ago for its establishment.

Speaking after the official opening, Mr. Brathwaite said they expected to have between 10 to 12 clients during the pilot phase which is expected to run from a year to 18 months.

Clients are expected to start the programme in May, as those involved in the process, including magistrates, judges, police officers and counsellors, will undergo further training next month.

???It is a structured programme. You want that at the end of the day to ensure that you bring people in, and that they don???t come back to you. The idea is to address recidivism; to address what brought them to the criminal justice system whether it be marijuana, cocaine, [or] alcohol,??? Mr. Brathwaite indicated.

The Minister stressed that this was a programme where if one person was saved, then it was worth it.

He added that there were costs attached to establishing the court, but pointed out that already support was being given to offenders in various forms. That includes support given through such entities as Verdun House, Centre for Counselling Addiction Support Alternative (CASA) and the Psychiatric Hospital, and through individual psychiatrists and psychologists.

???Yes, we recognise that there is some additional cost with testing because you have clients who would be required to be tested weekly or bi-weekly, so you will have some costs in that regard,??? he said.

However, Minister Brathwaite noted that his Ministry had spoken with its partners in the Organisation of American States (OAS), the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) of the OAS and the Canadians in providing assistance in those areas, as it was important that the necessary support agencies were in a position to respond.

Barbados signed a Memorandum of Understanding in March 2013 with CICAD to participate in a hemispheric project to promote drug treatment courts and similar court-supervised treatment alternatives to incarceration.

A drug treatment court is an intervention that is structured, intensive, demanding, and one in which drug-abusing offenders are held accountable for their behaviour.

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