Increased resources for drug treatment courts urged

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica: Chief Justice of Jamaica Zaila McCalla has called for an increase of resources for the nation’s two Drug Treatment Courts (DTC).

Speaking at a Drug Treatment Court workshop which concluded last Saturday, Justice McCalla told an audience of judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, treatment providers, and probation officers from the United States, Canada, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, that more than 200 people had graduated from the drug treatment program and had demonstrated “monumental changes” in their lifestyle.

She called the results impressive and it shows that this alternative to imprisonment of drug dependent offenders was working.

However, McCalla emphasized that substantial resources – human, financial and otherwise – were critical to sustaining those courts and reiterated her call for the establishment of more DTCs in the country and for more resources to strengthen the existing ones.

“The time has come for Drug Treatment Courts to be within the reach of all eligible persons within the country,” McCalla said, adding that capacity building through training was necessary to accomplish this.

Outlining the benefits of the DTCs, McCalla said that they did not only provide a second chance for addicts who were determined to change their lifestyle but also served to assist in the fight to reduce crime and violence and to reduce the backlog of cases in the courts.

The nation’s two courts are located in Kingston and St. James.

High Court Judge Justice Glen Brown, one of the founders of the DTCs, stressed the need for the courts to be introduced in the remaining 12 parishes and appealed to the Government of Jamaica to invest more resources into the initiative. He also called on International Development Partners to support an International conference on DTCs.

The training workshop in Montego Bay, entitled “How to Establish and Consolidate Drug Treatment Courts in the Caribbean, a Team Effort”, was a joint initiative of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Organization of the American States through the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission of the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security, the governments of Canada, Jamaica and the European Union, through the 9th European Development Fund.

Its aim is to help curb substance abuse and its social consequences in the Caribbean by developing treatment programs for drug dependent offenders as an alternative to imprisonment.

Regional and international stakeholders have given their full support to the establishment of DTCs within CARICOM.

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