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Trinidad and Tobago Opens Pilot Drug Treatment Court with OAS Support

  September 13, 2012

High ranking government and judicial officials in Trinidad and Tobago have joined forces with the Organization of American States through the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission, to launch the country’s very first Drug Treatment Court.

OAS Assistant Secretary General Ambassador Albert Ramdin joined Trinidad and Tobago’s Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Minister of National Security Austin Jack Warner to launch the unprecedented initiative, which will provide non violent drug dependent offenders with an alternative to traditional incarceration. The launch of the pilot project, which commits participants to a supervised treatment program, was witnessed by the country’s Attorney General, Minister of Legal Affairs, Justice Kofi Barnes, Chair of the Canadian Association of Drug Treatment Court Professionals CADTCP, as well as representative of CARICOM Beverly Reynolds, and Mr. Cyril Joseph, on behalf of the government of Canada.

"Drug Treatment Courts have the potential to change the way people see the Court system. The concept addresses cause, not just the consequence. It has the potential to bring about meaningful change for the person involved and for the community he or she belongs to", said Assistant Secretary General Ramdin.
According to Ramdin, "evidence shows that by following the principles of the Drug Treatment Court, it can prevent violence; promote citizen security; reduce crime; improve safety in neighbourhoods and communities; and reduce the risk to relapse into drug use".

The initiative was proposed by Trinidad and Tobago’s Chief Justice one year earlier at the opening of the 2011-2012 Law Term. A multi-sector approach involving various government agencies was adopted, and a Steering Committee convened by the Chief Justice comprising the Judiciary, Magistracy, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Ministry of National Security, Police, National Drug Council (NDC), Ministry of Justice, Probation Services, Prisons Service, Ministry of Health and several others.

In introducing the concept, Chief Justice Archie noted that the experience in the Hemisphere confirmed a significant reduction in the number of repeat offenders, and a decrease in the number of prisoners and persons appearing before the Courts. Statistics from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service indicate that arrests for drug related offences exceed 5,000 annually, with implications for backlogs in the court system, cost of incarceration, recidivism, and public health. Drug Treatment Courts have proven successful in Jamaica, the United States, Canada, Chile, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Australia, Belgium, Ireland, and the UK.

Prior to the launch of the Pilot Court, the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), sourced support from the Government of Canada to provide training for judges, prosecutors, defence attorneys, police and probation officers, treatment providers and policy makers.

For more information about this initiative, contact alomba@oas.org.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

Reference: E-312/12