Jamaica lauded for being regional leader in operating drug treatment courts

Chief Justice, Zaila McCalla,

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica is being touted as a regional leader in its operation of drug treatment courts (DTCs) and a model for other countries implementing them.

Representative of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Jamaica, Jeanelle van Glaanen Weygel, says experts from Jamaica have played a key role in the establishment of drug treatment courts in Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.

She was addressing the opening of a three-day regional workshop on drug treatment courts at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston last Wednesday.

In Jamaica, drug treatment courts have been established in five parishes. They provide an alternative to incarceration for drug-dependent offenders where they benefit from treatment and rehabilitation under judicial supervision.

Research has shown that DTCs significantly reduce crime and the prison population, relapse into drug use is lessened, and they are more cost-effective than any other proven criminal justice strategy.

Van Glaanen Weygel expressed confidence that Jamaica will continue to impact the development of DTCs throughout the hemisphere. She said the OAS is honoured to work with distinguished professionals at all levels of Government in Jamaica involved in the operation of the courts.

She said the organisation is particularly grateful for “the incredible support from Chief Justice, Zaila McCalla, who is known as an articulate and compassionate defender of human rights of drug-related offenders in the hemisphere.” She also praised other individuals and organisations for their roles in the establishment of the courts in the country.

Ms. van Glaanen Weygel noted that over the past decade, the OAS, through its Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), has been supporting member states to promote drug treatment courts and similar court-supervised treatment alternatives to incarceration in the Americas.

She said that when CICAD began its collaboration with the Jamaican Government in 2010, Jamaica had already established adult treatment courts, which have grown from two to five adult drug treatment courts, and two children or juvenile drug treatment programmes.

“The OAS looks forward to supporting the Government of Jamaica and other OAS member States as they explore new approaches to deal with drug-dependent offenders within the justice system, and as they aim for the ultimate goal to significantly reduce crime, promote citizen security, reduce prison populations and reduce the risk of relapse into drug use,” she said.

Van Glaanen Weygel added that the OAS is now exploring establishing community courts and the expansion of juvenile DTCs in the region, with the help of the Canadian Government.