Drug court is key

Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite
Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite

The establishment of a Drug Treatment Court will not solve Barbados’ drug problems, but it will assist the country in attacking the source.

Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite, said the court was necessary to understand why a significant number of young men who are incarcerated turn to alcohol or marijuana.

He made these comments at the Supreme Court Complex this morning, during a training workshop on the Drug Treatment Court for judges, magistrates, attorneys, prosecutors, probation officers, and others involved in the judicial and rehabilitation process.

Admitting that there were those who believed that such a court was for the administration of justice and not for intervening in the medical realm, the Attorney General stressed that seeking out ways of preventing people from turning to drugs was the right thing to do.

“The simplistic view of it is that indeed we need to look at whether or not just imprisoning people is enough; whether or not there are other alternatives that we should address rather than just simply imprisonment. This is but one of them,” he said.

Noting that the Drug Treatment Court would not eliminate the drug scourge, Brathwaite said: “If we could save one of them then the effort would be worth it.

It is my hope and desire that through this effort we would save many more young people and in that regard therefore, we must take this path.”

In order for the process to be successful, he added that stakeholders must receive adequate training.

“We must ensure that our judges, magistrates, policemen, prosecutors, defence attorneys, [and] all of the actors are properly trained. That is why we are here this morning,” he said.

Brathwaite added that the vision for the Drug Treatment Court must also be shared with the public.

“We still have the battle of public perception. We still have to spend some time educating the public of Barbados as to what we are about.

“The ordinary person in Barbados still believes [that when] you commit the crime you go to jail. That’s how it works and that is how it should work,” he said.

Visions for a Drug Treatment Court were supported by Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, who said the usual perception of a court was that it is a multidisciplinary organisation which can solve all problems.

“What has come to be understood is, that is not true. You need specialised training to solve specialised problems,” he stated.

He added that there was a need to see the person who committed a crime out of the desire for “the next drug fix” not as a criminal, but as a person in need of treatment.

“[If] we change our perception, we [can] change our culture. There actually is support for that thinking in our Penal System Reform Act… I firmly believe that treatment is a better way than incarceration,” the Chief Justice said.

Sir Marston explained the act started from the proposition that custodial sentences should only be imposed as a last resort after other options were explored.”When you get to the point of sending someone to prison you accept that you have done all you could and there is nothing else you can do,” he noted.

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