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Govt mulls drug treatment courts for all parishes

Thursday, September 07, 2017

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck says the Government is looking at expanding its treatment services to offenders with substance-abuse problems by establishing drug treatment courts in all parishes.

The courts, which are currently operating in five parishes, provide an alternative to incarceration for drug-dependent offenders, where they benefit from treatment and rehabilitation under judicial supervision.

The minister was addressing the opening of a three-day regional workshop on drug treatment courts at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on September 6.

Chuck said an expansion of the programme will require collaboration with the Health Ministry and support from health practitioners in the private sector.

“The real challenge is to find more psychiatrists and psychologists making themselves available to participate in this programme. I will be speaking to my colleague minister of health to provide some additional resources, so we can use persons in the private sector, so that every parish can have at least one day per month to have a drug treatment court,” he said.

Chuck pointed out that the intention to expand the courts was prompted by a request from the parish court judges, who have recognised that when drug offenders come before them, “it's not a jail term that they need, they need medical assistance and we are hoping that before long this can in fact be done”.

“The drug treatment court is one of the clear lessons how we can achieve change in an atmosphere of compassion and caring, encouraging and rewarding behaviour change while being firm when there are breaches,” he said.

Chuck argued that more resources must be diverted to projects such as the drug treatment courts to strengthen the infrastructure for therapeutic jurisprudence as an effective alternative to incarceration.

“It is evident that we need more than good policing, successful prosecution and lengthy jail time to heal individuals, families, communities and our countries. The Drug Treatment Programme strikes the right balance between holding individuals accountable and helping them to do better and be better humans,” he said.

According to the Organisation of American States, treatment alternatives to incarceration can help break the cycle of criminal behaviour, alcohol and drug use, and imprisonment.

In various countries, drug treatment courts have proven to effectively reduce crime, relapse into drug use, the prison population, and they are also cost-effective.

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