Drug treatment court to reduce burden on prison system


Guyana’s first Drug Treatment Court will be in operation within the next three months and according to Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George-Wiltshire it will reduce the burden on the prison system.

The Court is also seen as an alternative response to dealing specifically with law offenders who are also drug abusers.

On Monday, a one-week training programme commenced at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston Georgetown for persons who will be working at the Drug Treatment Court.

The Chief Justice said that the treatment of drug abusers who come in contact with the law is a better response than imprisonment.

“The reasons for having such a court are multidimensional; the anecdotal 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,” the Chief Justice said.

The Chief Justice said the court is an important aspect of the National Drug Strategy Master plan and the approved offences is currently in the process of being complete.

Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George-Wiltshire

The court will be set up in the same building that houses the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court on Avenue of the Republic.

“The location of the court…will permit easier access to resources and personnel including stakeholders such as the Police, social services and health and drug treatment providers to facilitate the efficient operation of the court,” the Chief Justice said.

She explained that the court aims to promote public safety and provide treatment and support for drug abusers offenders.

To participate in the drug treatment programme, the defendant must plead guilty or be found guilty of non-violent and minor offences.

“Many of these defendants have committed non-violent offences for which the usual response of incarceration is not the most beneficial,” the Chief Justice said.

For those persons who successfully complete the treatment programme, their sentence will be significantly reduced or they would not be imprisoned at all.

Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George-Wiltshire and other officials at the launch of the one-week training [DPI photo]
The Chief Justice said the drug treatment court will have a collaborative team of persons to support the offender in his or her rehabilitation.

“This team will consist of the Magistrate, State Counsels from the chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the police prosecutor, a police officer, a social services or probation officer, defence counsel, substance abuse treatment provider and any other person the team may require,” the Chief Justice said.

The drug treatment court is in collaboration with the Organization of American States (OAS) – Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission and the National Anti-Narcotics Agency (NANA) in Guyana.

Jean Ricot Dormeus, the Country Representative of the OAS Secretariat in Guyana, said they have been working with Guyana on the establishment of the court since February this year and also organized a number of training workshops.

“I trust that the practical sessions and the role-play exercises of this workshop will provide you with tips and techniques to make the drug treatment court a vibrant and successful experience in Guyana,” Dormeus said.

The drug treatment initiative has been implemented in Jamaica, the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.

This is the fourth specialized court that Guyana has established focusing on the needs of the individual who interact with the court.

The others are the Family Court, the Sexual Offences Court and the Children Court.

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