AG suggests there are better alternatives for drug offenders than jail
Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite said today he was anxious to see a fully operational drug treatment court in Barbados to save more young people from incarceration and to help address challenges in the prison system.
“We are very keen on seeing our court rolled out. We believe it is the right thing for us as a country to save more of our young people,” he told the opening of a two-day regional workshop on the Monitoring and Evaluation of Drug Treatment Courts at the Crane Beach Resort in St Philip.
Brathwaite, who suggested there was a case to be made for imprisonment as a last resort, pointed to the current challenges facing prisons across the region.
“Most of our prisons are overcrowded and short of staff of the requisite personnel. No one really volunteers to work in prison in terms of psychologists, psychiatrists etc.
“There is no prison in the region that I have heard about that has adequate staff when it comes to treating offenders who have medical or psychological problems and therefore we need to look exactly at what we are doing to tackle the problem outside of the prison setting and certainly save more of our young people from returning to prisons.”
While admitted that there were strong, differing views about the success of the drug treatment court model, he noted that this could be easily be addressed by a mechanism that would monitor and evaluate the court’s operations.
“I am advised that the cost of incarceration of individuals in Barbados is about $35,000 per annum, so certainly we can begin there as a benchmark a year from now when we look at the success or failure of our model and see whether or not it is more expensive to have a drug treatment court model, or is it less expensive or is it on par . . . it is important for us to be able to have this mechanism in place to evaluate all that we are doing.”
Brathwaite also told the legal officers present that it was critical for regional officials to take ownership of the training and make it relevant to the needs of the Caribbean.
Canada and the United States have been supporting the region’s efforts to establish drug treatment courts.
Canadian High Commissioner to Barbados and the OECS Richard Henley noted that drug treatment courts had enhanced the safety and security of Canadians and he stressed that they should be considered as an alternative to imprisonment.
“It is our hope that over time drug treatment courts in your countries will significantly reduce crime [and] recidivism in the prison population.
“Drug treatment courts in Canada have been recognized as an innovative approach to help offenders address the cycle of criminal addiction and behaviour. It is a public health issue as well as a criminal justice issue. They provide treatment to the addicts and safety to the community,” he said.
He was strongly supported by Deputy Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), who said monitoring and evaluation were essential in keeping track of the planning process and measuring implementation.
“Scientific evidence shows us that if we follow a methodology for the review of the DCTs (Drug Treatment Courts) we cannot only strengthen but expand the programme across the hemisphere generating evidence which will allow each and every one of us to demonstrate that the objectives have been reached.
“We evaluate because we need to know exactly how we are doing. We need to monitor processes in order to be certain that we are able to react and adjust our goals and activities in the implementation process of the initiative.”