‘Better to rehabilitate not incarcerate’ – Drug Treatment Court in 3 months

─ training starts for partners and personnel

DPI, Guyana, Monday, July 29, 2019   

In approximately three months, Guyana’s first-ever Drug Treatment Court will be fully operational.

Earlier today, a Drug Treatment Court Training began for partners and persons who will be working in the new system.

The drug treatment court model was established out of the need to solve the frequent and persistent problems that drug-related cases create for court systems, the jails and society as a whole. This was explained by the Director of the National Anti-Narcotics Agency (NANA), Retired Major General, Michael Atherly.

“This workshop signals another important phase in cooperation and collaboration between the Organization of American States (OAS) – Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) and Guyana, intended to support the Implementation of Alternatives to Incarceration, a programme derived from CICAD’s Hemispheric Drug Strategy, and with adjustments made by our own National Drug Strategy Master Plan (NDSMP),” Major Atherly stated.

Also addressing the opening of the training, Madam Roxane George, Chief Justice (ag), similarly stated that the treatment of drug users is preferable to incarceration. Adding that the reason for having a drug treatment court is multi-dimensional.

“The antipodal and empirical evidence strongly indicates that there has been and is a growing number of persons who interface with the criminal justice system in Guyana who are substance abusers,” noted the acting Chief Justice.

She said many offenders had committed nonviolent offences for which the response of incarceration was not the most beneficial. “International and regional experience has demonstrated that treatment of substance abusers is a better response than imprisonment,” she charged.

The National Drug Strategy Master Plan calls for all participating agencies and bodies to implement measures and programmes. These are aimed at offering treatment, rehabilitation, and recovery support services to drug-dependent offenders, as an alternative to criminal prosecution or imprisonment.

In this regard, the acting Chief Justice said a team will support the individual during his or her rehabilitation. The team, she said, will comprise the magistrate, a state council from the chambers of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), and or the Police Prosecutor, a police officer, a social services or probation officer, defense counsel, substance abuse treatment provider and any other person the team may require, all working together to ensure that the offender stays the course of the contract he or she must voluntarily agree to, in order to successfully graduate from the treatment program.”

CARICOM countries who already have Drug Treatment Courts include; Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados and the Bahamas.

The latest to join this list are Antigua and Barbuda and Guyana.