Drug treatment in courts – alternative route to incarceration- Min. Ramjattan

– step forward in the right direction

– transforming Guyana’s justice system

DPI, Guyana, Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan stated there is a dire need to address non-violent drug offenders in a court operated rehabilitation programme.

“In our national drug master plan for 2016-2020 there is the policy that states we have to reduce the use of incarceration which is a punitive response for non-violent drug offenders,” Minster Ramjattan said.

According to Public Security Minister, “we wanted through that policy to provide treatment and rehabilitation and so the establishment of a drug treatment court was identified as one such programme.”

Minister Ramjattan was at the time delivering remarks at the high-level meeting on exploring alternatives to incarceration including drug treatment courts in Guyana.

The discussion engaged law enforcement officials, representatives from Guyana’s judicial system as well as representatives from the Organisation of American States and Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission.

Minister Ramjattan noted that the programme will yield many benefits. “I can also see that with treatment, recidivism will fall and not only with drug offences but with other offences because drug users support their bad habits just for the want of getting more money so they can buy some more drugs.”

He noted that the initiative will be cost effective in the long run and forms part of the transformation needed in Guyana’s justice system.

Also delivering remarks, was National Anti-Narcotics Agency Head Major General (Ret’d) Michael Atherly who remarked that “drug addiction is a chronic relapsing disease that must be dealt with as an essential element of public health policy.”  He reiterated the Public Security Minister’s sentiments noting that the strategy calls for the exploration of offering treatment, rehabilitation and recovery support services to drug dependent offenders.

“Today represents an important step forward,” Atherly said and encouraged stakeholders to continue supporting the cause.

Earlier in the year Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence, Acting Chief Justice, Roxanne George-Wiltshire, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Dion Mc Calmont and Major General (Ret’d) Atherly attended meetings in Chicago and New York that explored problem-solving courts and alternatives to incarceration for drug-related offences.  There they experienced innovative models first hand and asked questions of those directly involved in programmes’ implementation and operation.

The initiative is a commitment made by the Executive Secretariat of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (ES/CICAD) and Secretariat for Multidimensional Security of the Organisation of American States (OAS). The commitment embodies the goal of providing technical assistance to OAS member states in the implementation of alternatives to incarceration programmes.

Anara Khan.

Images: Jameel Mohamed.

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