Drug Court success
FIVE recovering drug addicts started a new chapter in their lives two weeks ago when they graduated from a substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation programme run by the Corporate Area Drug Treatment Court.
The four men and one woman were given another chance at a crime-free life after being arrested for an array of petty infractions, having proven they had kicked the drug habit after undergoing a rigorous treatment and testing programme run by the Court.
Forty-one-year-old Delroy Laidley is one of them. He was candid about his problem with ganja use, which sometimes led to fits of violent anger. It was this anger that landed him before a judge over a year ago.
“I was having a dispute with my baby mother, we live fi eight years, and ended up in lockup at the station and then in the Court. The judge ask mi if mi guilty and I explained that me and the woman had a dispute and she draw a knife. She claim seh mi knock her, but mi never did knock her, but the police wasn’t taking any talk when they tek me to jail,” Laidley told the Observer.
What happened next was to prove the start of his painful but profitable journey to stay drug free.
“The judge ask mi if I want a trial and mi seh no, so she turn me over to the probation officer. I go downtown and mi tell dem seh anytime mi smoke weed it mek mi get violent and want fi fight. Dem ask mi if mi want to go pon di drugs programme fi stop smoke and mi tell dem yes.”
Thus began a gruelling six-month programme of weaning himself from the drug, checking in regularly with probation officer Beverly Baugh, undergoing intensive counselling and weekly urine testing for residual drugs. Those in the programme also had to constantly prove to the Court that they were staying drug free by going before the magistrate every week.
“In the first it was like a stress to me, sometimes mi even tell the counsellor some tings cause I find it stressful. Mi have wifey, mi have kids wid her, mi tek her up wid one, which mi call mi own. She not working and mi haffi find money for rent, for light, fi water, fi food. Sometime mi feel like run away when I have to go to court and treatment centre two times a week. But with the help of the counsellors and probation staff, I stuck it out,” Laidley explained.
“Sometime, I get a work in country and have to give it up to make the appointment, sometime mi feel fi run dem,” Laidley said of his having to check in with the Maxfield Park Health Centre every Tuesday for six months.
Treatment provider/counsellor Daniel Brown said the programme has three stages and participants have to work to get through each stage before finally completing the treatment. Based on his recommendation to the judge, they get to move on.
“The programme doesn’t start until the first negative test. They have to have six months of consecutive clean urine in order to participate,” Brown told the Observer. Most offenders are ganja users, but some are addicted to crack, cocaine, alcohol and heroine and must go through detox.
He said if the patients don’t stick to the programme, they could be returned to jail.
“If they go and party and then come to the testing and are positive, it is up to the judge to determine what is to happen to them, and they could land back in jail,” said Brown.
Those who stick it out are richly rewarded when they get their lives back, he said.
“Some clients have been abusing ganja for 20 years, 30 years. The treatment I as counsellor have to use is the Mobilisation Enhancement Theory, that is getting them to see that the change has to come from within themselves. Many didn’t even know they have a problem, because culturally, there was no problem with it. Eventually they realise this was taking away their energy and keeping them down,” said Brown.
At their graduation ceremony, the participants were urged to stay on the path to recovery.
“You will need a coach,” warned director of mental health and substance abuse in the Ministry of Health, Dr Maureen Irons-Morgan, as she likened the addicts’ recovery process to her own attempt to conquer her fear of swimming.
She explained that she decided late in life to learn to swim, and that, after missing lessons for four weeks, found that her fear of water had returned and she had to find the courage to try again.
“I’m sure you can find someone who can help you, a mentor, somebody who will be able to assist you as you navigate the waters,” she told the graduates.
“…You need to encourage yourself. You have to now decide you want this,” she added.
The group’s valedictorian, Donna Vassell, endorsed Irons-Morgan’s message.
Vassell, a 32-year-old mother of two, credited the programme for lifting her out of depression and a future marked by heavy ganja use. She pledged to avoid the pitfalls that led her down that dark path before.
“I became involved in drugs after my mother and my brother dead so violent… Mi just start smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke and I get so violent,” said Vassell.
“From I reach in the programme, all the sadness gone. It even motivate me to go to class. The programme send mi to this class and I finally learn multiplication,” she proudly told the Observer after the ceremony.
Vassell’s two teenage sons seated in the back row seemed to clap the loudest when she received her certificate.
She asked for more public support for the programme, and, like her fellow graduates, credited probation officer Beverly Baugh, and Brown, among others in the court system, for their recovery.
The Drug Treatment Court is designed to assist non-violent offenders. More than half of the persons who have come through the programme don’t go back to a life of crime.
It focuses on restoration rather than punishment through drug programmes run in courts in Montego Bay and Kingston. In Kingston, 239 clients have been through the programme. Two more drug courts are to be established in St Ann and St Catherine shortly.