Intro: President Anthony Carmona in his inaugural speech mentioned three areas related to crime and the judiciary; he spoke about the manchild being in crisis and made mention of the Bail Boys Project and the Drug Treatment Court.
It was while addressing jurours at the San Fernando High Court in February 2010 that then Justice Carmona first brought the issue of the "manchild" to the public's consciousness. He told jurours:
"I can sit here indifferent, day after day, sentencing manchild after manchild...you think it is easy? No, it's not, that's somebody's manchild."
He had pointed out that a manchild that is convicted is "somebody's manchild who wasn't given the focus.
"Our manchild is in crisis, the women are going to do all the make-up classes and the men are in the dock waiting...that is the problem."
He had told the jurours that "if your manchild is sitting in that dock then you have failed as a parent."
Criminologist Dianne Williams, agrees. In an interview with the Sunday Guardian she lays it all at the feet of the parents, "the problem starts in the home" she said.
But first, to define the "manchild," Dr Williams brought it down to the group identified as "youth". The Ministry of youth she said defines "youth" as being between 15-29, the males in this age group are at serious risk. The crisis is that in the long run it will affect the country as a whole, she said.
"There can be dire repercussions if the number of viable men needed to expand the population keeps decreasing long term. The statement speaks first to the youth and then to the wider population about the number of potential fathers that are being killed "particularly among he afro-Trinidadian. But it is not only that ethnic group "at risk." The East Indian male is also in crisis.
"Just throw your mind back to the Ryan report," she said.
The report states that the crisis with the East Indian "is generally one of alcohol abuse...they frequently operate in party mode, heavily involved in alcohol and drug consumption." This also affects the male's ability to procreate and populate.
We are also losing our men in the prison system.
"Our recividism rate is very high," Dr Williams said. It is estimated that of every two convicted offenders one will be reconvicted.
Maximisingtherapeutic outcomes in the court
The Bail Boys Project and the Drug Treatment Court can be found paired together in a presentation, Remodelling Justice–Interventions in Restorative Justice by Justice Geoffrey Henderso, advising of the benefits to be derived if the judicial system in its processes of sentencing consider a more "problem solving approach" or "therapeutic jurisprudence."
Canadian author Susan Goldberg in her handbook Judging for the 21st century: A problem-solving Approach, notes that "therapeutic jurisprudence does not ask judges to be therapists or social workers. It does not ask judges to cure mental illness or addiction, to counsel court participants, or to single handedly solve systemic social problems. It does, however, ask judges to be aware that such problems do exist, to be alive to their signs and symptoms and to consider the effects they may have on people in court and on the activities that have brought them to court and think about how to address these situations so as to maximise therapeutic outcomes."
How the Bail Boys Project works
Former Justice Carmona's understanding of "therapeutic jurisprudence" led him to set up the Bail Boys' Project. It was initiated in the San Fernando Magistrate's Court. Instead of merely setting conditions for bail such as reporting to police stations twice a week and so on, His Honour got creative.
Probation officers who are familiar with the project and are well versed to speak about the project are restricted from speaking because of ministerial policy.
State prosecutor Kathy Ann Waterman-Latchoo, who said she had the privilege to sit in on a few of the sessions, explained in brief that rather than being sent to jail, young men who came before the court were put in a programme.
"These young men had to go to school or be employed, they were restricted by curfews and had to avoid certain locations. They also had to see the probation officer on certain days. They would report once a week to the judge and based on the report rewards were given such as lifting of curfew or reduction in reporting restrictions.
"If they re-offend while on bail or broke conditions enough times, they are kicked out of the programme. The hearings involves the judge really talking to them to find out what is going on with them, and listening to the findings of the probation officer."
The Drug Treatment Court (DTC)
The Drug Treatment Court (DTC) pilot project was launched in September 2012 by Chief Justice Ivor Archie. He made the distinction between a "Drug Court" and "a Drug Treatment Court."
"In our jurisdiction there are courts where drug offences, both for possession and trafficking are heard before a senior magistrate. These are our "Drug Courts." The DTC, he contends, "offers a path that links "treatment" to a structured court supervised system."
The pilot projet, which has now become a model for some Latin American states, was birthed in San Fernando rather than Port-of-Spain where incidents of drug abuse or the caseload of people coming before the court on drug charges far outweigh the southland. Justice Henderson, chairman of the steering committee for the DTC pilot explained, "there are two reasons for South rather than POS; firstly we were piggy backing on the Bail Boys Project and also because the Chief Justice felt that since Port-of-Spain already had a problem solving court in the Family Court, we chose San Fernando for equity."
Justice Henderson works closely with Esther Best, director of the National Drug Council and steering committee member. They are proud of the initiative which they say is a merging of "treatment and justice."
Initially there was just one client for three months but now there are 22 people in the programme, all non-violent drug offenders who have been charged with simple narcotic offences and simple offences driven by an addiction.
In lieu of a custodial sentence participants become part of a programme where they are left in their environment but all are expected to comply with the elements of the programme which include drug testing, therapy or counselling sessions. And they must comply with a given curfew and are expected to hold a job.
The curfew is important, "it minimises the risk of them being able to access drugs," Best explained
To date the results have been encouraging. Of the 22 people in the programme 19 are gainfully employed, eight are attending classes.
Trinidad and Tobago is the first country in the OAS system to launch a DTC, but already it is a hit. The policy document written by this country has to be written in both English and Spanish to facilitate its use by interested Latin Americam States.
There is also a MOU between Trinidad and Tobago and the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (Cicad) to partner with the Government in providing financial and technical assistance for the programme.