Published On: Mon, Mar 24th, 2014

Caribbean chief justices participate in workshop on drug treatment courts

OASVANCOUVER, Canada - The Organization of American States (OAS), in cooperation with the Canadian Association of Drug Treatment Court Professionals (CADTCP), held last week in Vancouver, Canada, a drug treatment court (DTC) exchange and on-site study program event for four Caribbean countries: Jamaica, Belize, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Each country participating in the event sent a team made up of judges, magistrates, prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation officers, and treatment providers, as well as chief magistrates and chief justices.

The workshop was intended to put ideas and theory into practice for Caribbean countries that are exploring new ways to deal with drug-dependent offenders. All participants in the workshop took part in DTC simulation sessions.

Chief Justice Marston Gibson of Barbados underscored the positive impact of attending in person to a DTC simulation session, “because it leads towards thinking of problem-solving modality in all of the courts, not just the drug courts.”

“It leads to seeing courts as a place for resolutions, not just decisions,” he added.

For his part, Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin of Belize observed that the experience “will serve to inform the imminent launch of a pilot DTC program.”

Benjamin asserted, “The sharing of experiences from other Caribbean countries has been invaluable.”

The workshop was organized by the CADTCP, through its National Problem Solving Court Institute (NPSCI), and by the OAS, through the Drug Treatment Courts Program for the Americas, an initiative coordinated by the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) of the OAS. Authorities present during the event included the chief justices of Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago; the attorney general of Barbados; and the four chief magistrates from all four Caribbean countries. In addition, each country attended with the participation of their DTC teams (judges, magistrates, prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation officers, and treatment providers.)

Three of the participating countries have already launched DTC pilots thanks to OAS support with Canada’s contributions: Trinidad and Tobago has one court running; Jamaica currently has three in operation; and Barbados just launched its first. Trinidad and Tobago will launch its first Juvenile Court and second Adult Court before the summer. Finally, Belize is in its exploration phase.

This activity was made possible thanks to the financial support and leadership of the government of Canada. The OAS Drug Treatment Court Program for the Americas is an initiative that responds to the OAS Hemispheric Drug Strategy Estrategia Hemisférica sobre Drogas de la OEA, which calls for countries to explore alternatives to incarceration for drug dependent offenders.

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