The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today inaugurated a practical workshop on the implementation of Drug Treatment Courts with a call for finding "integral solutions" that view drug dependent offenders from "a multidimensional perspective."
The opening ceremony, held at OAS headquarters in Washington, DC, also featured the participation of William Brownfield, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement in the Department of State of the United States; Allan Culham, Permanent Representative of Canada to the OAS; and Paul Simons, Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) of the OAS.
The workshop brings together judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, treatment providers, probation or parole officers and other professionals from member states to participate in debates, theoretical and practical training, and a visit to a court. Participants in the workshop from Argentina, Peru, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Panama, Mexico and Colombia, countries that have either already implemented or plan to implement drug treatment courts, will also exchange experiences with their counterparts in the United States, who are meet in Washington, DC, beginning on Monday at the annual meeting of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP).
Secretary General Insulza stated that "the use of alcohol and drugs produces significant damage not only to the addict, but also generates a burden on society in terms of lost productivity, impact on families, increased costs for health care, security forces and criminal justice." He recalled that the Hemispheric Drug Strategy adopted by the member states of the OAS in 2010 established the need to "provide treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration of criminal offenders addicted to drugs, as an alternative to criminal prosecution or deprivation of freedom." The idea, said the Secretary General, was reinforced in the Report on the Problem of Drugs in the Americas (Analytical Report - Scenarios Report) presented this year, in the chapter on "Legal and Regulatory Alternatives."
"This statement and its recommendations need to be incorporated, not only in political language, but also in leading to solutions that address the drug dependent offender from a multidimensional perspective," said Insulza. Drug treatment courts, he continued, not only help to reduce crime, but also "help to relieve the prison system, also allowing a decrease in relapses and finally, represent savings to the state in the medium and long term."
The leader of the hemispheric Organization highlighted that, in the course of the workshop "you will analyze some of the elements that define this model, while you will also be able to share the experiences of other countries that have already gone through this process. The OAS, in this sense, is proud to be a bridge for horizontal communication, while also serving as an instrument that allows for actions leading to the design of better policies on drugs."
For his part, William Brownfield, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement in the Department of State of the United States, said that in the global debate on the drug problem, "we should start the process by looking for areas of consensus, and I suggest that at this time there is consensus on a fundamental point, and that is that arrest and incarceration are not the solution," he said. If "the illicit drug problem is a public health problem," said Ambassador Brownfield, "we need an entry point to the health system," and drug treatment courts provide that entry point.
Moreover, he also expressed the hope of his government that the drug treatment courts model could be extended to the entire region, and encouraged the representatives of the countries that have already started an initiative to promote it to its neighbors. "The drug treatment courts are a solution, are you are pioneers and leaders in seeking these solutions in your own countries, communities and societies."
The CICAD Executive Secretary explained to the participants that the purpose of the workshop "is that you receive some formal theoretical training, but that you also have many opportunities to exchange views between you." Ambassador Simons said that during the workshop, "we will introduce not only the model of drug treatment courts but other alternatives to incarceration as well." Moreover, Executive Secretary Simons said participants will hear testimonials from people who have gone through the drug court treatment system, which emphasizes that "this is fundamentally a human issue, and I think combining this didactic part with the human experience" will inspire the participants in the workshop.
Ambassador Culham from Canada emphasized the flexibility of the TTD model to adapt to the needs of each country, highlighting the context in which the workshop takes place. He referred to the Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas, and said "we see this as a very important piece of work and an important contribution on this subject going forward and your presence here today and your work over the next three days is under the umbrella of both the Plan of Action and the OAS drug study and we look forward to following up on both of those important pieces of work in the months if not years to come," said the Permanent Representative of Canada.
The workshop takes place until Tuesday, July 16 in Washington DC, and includes discussions, practical exercises on alternatives to incarceration models, simulations of hearings, participation in the NADCP Annual Conference, and a visit to a drug treatment court in the state of Maryland. The workshop is part of the Drug Treatment Court Program of the Americas, coordinated by CICAD of the OAS, with the support of the governments of Canada and the United States.
A gallery of photos of the event is available here.
The B-roll of the event is available here.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org