Guyana forging ahead with plans for drug treatment courts

Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan (centre) with Acting Chief Justice, Roxane George (right) and Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Yonette Cummings -Edwards. (Department of Public Information photo)

Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, has announced that government will be moving ahead with plans to establish drug treatment courts across Guyana, with the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court serving as the pilot institution.

The announcement was reportedly made while the minister delivered remarks at the first of a series of training courses on ‘Treatment Alternatives to Incarceration including Drug Treatment Courts’, held in preparation of the courts’ establishment. The workshop targeted law enforcement officials, judicial representatives, representatives of the Organisation of American States, and other stakeholders, a release from the Department of Public Information (DPI) stated.

DPI noted that after the establishment of the city drug treatment court, similar courts will be set up in other areas, including on the Corentyne in Region Six and Bartica, in Region Seven. The courts are meant to reduce the rates of incarnation of non-violent drug offenders.

The courts will reportedly take a “public health approach”, using a specialized model that will see “the judiciary, prosecutors, probation and social service officers, health

personnel and treatment communities” working together to “help addicted offenders into long-term recovery”.

“Rather than jail—the drug offender— ask them whether they are willing to go through a treatment process and that is the important thing here… We want to have non-custodial penalties for those who are found with small amounts … you shouldn’t send them to jail, those who are addicts and they come often to court,” the minister stated.

He was also reported as saying that in those areas “rife with drug offenders”, a second court will be implemented.

DPI further reported that, “OAS Representative, Jean Ricot Dormeus said that it was just a matter of time for Guyana to pilot an addiction treatment court, which has produced encouraging results in fifteen countries in the hemisphere.  He said this move will bring hope to many families who have a loved one suffering from addiction abuse”.

It was further stated that US Charge d’Affaires, Terry Steers-Gonzalez, in his remarks, noted that while Guyana has a small population and drug use is low, no country can afford to be complacent with the issue. He, therefore, commended the government for forging ahead with fine-tuning its plan to tackle the problem.

The initiative to establish drug treatment courts comes out of a commitment made by the Executive Secretariat of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (ES/CICAD) and the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security of the Organisation of American States (OAS). It is also part of Guyana’s national drug master plan for 2016-2020, which includes a policy to reduce the use of incarceration for non-violent drug offenders, DPI reported.

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