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OAS Trains Officials From Panama to Expand the Drug Treatment Courts Program

  November 12, 2014

The Organization of American States (OAS) and the Government of Panama today inaugurated a three-day training workshop for the expansion of the Program of Drug Treatment Courts) in the Central American country, which involved 150 officials in the areas of justice, health and treatment and rehabilitation centers.

Representatives from the Attorney General´s office of Panama, through CONAPRED (National Commission for the Study and Prevention of Drug-Related Offenses) the Supreme Court, and the Health Ministry will participate in the workshop along with experts from the OAS Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), Chile and Mexico.

During the opening ceremony, the Attorney General of Panama, Ana Isabel Belfón Vejas, highlighted that her country has worked "actively" with CICAD in promoting treatment alternatives to incarceration under judicial supervision for drug-dependent offenders through different forums and workshops. "One of these alternatives, with which Panama has been actively working since February 2014, is the Drug Treatment Courts," she added.

Meanwhile, the President of the Panamanian Supreme Court, José Eduardo Ayú Prado, said his country has made great efforts to tackle drug problems, and in this regard he stated that "Drug Courts are able to differentiate between the consumer, the dealer and the manufacturer."

For his part, the Minister of Government, Milton Henríquez, emphasized the role that the courts play in Panama's efforts to improve its prison policy. "We are committed to working with a new prison system that has three pillars, one is respect for the dignity of the human person, the second is security for all these actors who are linked to the system, and the last is rehabilitation for social reintegration," he said.

In his speech, the Deputy Minister of Public Security, Rogelio Donadío, said that the drug court program raised understanding of the problem of consumption, "a matter that affects public safety and the whole country." Deputy Health Minister, Michael Mayo, for his part, judged as positive seeing the agencies responsible for health and justice join forces to combat addictions, because “much more positive” results are achieved that “reduce criminal recidivism."

Meanwhile, the OAS representative in Panama, Pedro Vuskovic, noted that more and more countries are collaborating directly with the OAS, through CICAD, "in order to install a capacity for research and evaluation that allows for consolidation of the model and the generation of their own evidence." In this regard, he stressed the importance of training more staff to expand the program to other parts of the country, as desired by the Panamanian government.

Panama implemented its first pilot Judicial Drug Treatment Program in the province of Coclé which has already led to five cases in which the accused are being treated for their addiction. Panama is expected to implement the second pilot program in San Miguelito, Panama Province, in the coming months.

The OAS works to promote Drug Courts under judicial supervision as an alternative to incarceration for drug dependent offenders in the Americas. There are an estimated 3.6 million people incarcerated in the Hemisphere, of which about 1.5 million were arrested for drug-related issues, most for possession or micro-trafficking.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-491/14