Chief Justice Ivor Archie has announced the opening of the first drug treatment court in the country at the opening ceremony of the training workshop that takes place this week in Port-of-Spain. This workshop, Implementing Drug Treatment Courts as an alternative to Incarceration for Drug Dependent Offenders, is being carried out under the leadership of the Ministry of National Security (through the National Drug Council), the Ministry of Justice and the Judiciary of Trinidad and Tobago. It is being coordinated by the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), of the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security of the Organisation of American States (OAS), with part funding from the Government of Canada.
According to John Sandy, Minister of National Security, Trinidad and Tobago needs to find different and innovative alternatives to improve citizen security. The opening ceremony included remarks by Karen McDonald, the High Commissioner of Canada and Justice Kofi Barnes, Ontario Court Judge and Chairman of the Canadian Association of Drug Treatment Courts. Riyad Insanally, the OAS Country Representative, gave the assurance that this initiative would receive the full support of the OAS through its Drug Treatment Court Programme for the Americas.
More than 70 judges, prosecutors, treatment providers, defence counsel, probation and police officers, from Trinidad and Tobago and The Bahamas attended the workshop. The training was provided by a multidisciplinary team from Canada led by Justice Barnes, in cooperation with trainers from Jamaica (judges from Montego Bay and Kingston), and the US (American University and the NADCP), where drug treatment courts have been already implemented. Chief Justice Zaila McCalla of Jamaica, who also attended the workshop, joined efforts with Chief Justice Archie to promote a comprehensive Caribbean approach to drug treatment courts in cooperation with CICAD.
As a multi-disciplinary practice, marrying prevention policies, treatment and justice, drug treatment courts has proven an effective intervention for drug dependent offenders, as an alternative to incarceration. Drug treatment courts have proven in other countries in the hemisphere to reduce crime and with it, the recidivism rate, the prison population and drug dependency.
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