Drug court continues to count successes

| 11/10/2013

(CNS): Three more people who could have ended up behind bars are instead embarking on a fresh start following their graduation from the Drug Rehabilitation Court.  The latest graduates from the specialist criminal justice programme graduated last month and bring the total number of people with drug problems who have successfully completed the programme to 75 since that court was formally established. Talking about the strength of the court, which was down to the many dedicated people committed to the programme, the chief justice said that it turned lives around “rather than abandoning people to the cycle of recidivism that so often captures those who become addicted to drugs.”

The three graduates have achieved sustained sobriety, stable housing and full-time employment and were also required to either attend an educational institution or undertake volunteer work during their time in the rehab programme.

The concept was conceived from as far back as 1998 by the Sentencing Advisory Council but formal efforts began in 2000 with the formation of an Implementation Committee, following a pilot project through the Summary Court. Today’s Drug Court, a sophisticated version of that pilot, is modelled on the Ontario court system with its legal framework in the local 2006 law.

“We had the invaluable assistance of Justice Paul Bentley (now deceased) and his entire team from Toronto (including his successor Justice Kofi Barnes), all of whom came twice at my request to put on workshops for our team,” Chief Justice Anthony Smellie said during the graduation. 

“Our team  included persons from all the relevant disciplines — the Probation Service, Drug Counselling and Treatment (including Caribbean Haven) , the Police, the Criminal Defence Bar, the Attorney General's Department (then responsible for prosecutions) , Legislative Drafting, the Drug Testing Laboratory, the Department of Mental Health at the Cayman Islands Hospital, and the Department of Labour and Employment.”

The development of the foundation of the court was rigorous, the chief justice said. Once a full understanding of the programme was gained with legislation in place, he was able to publicize the special rules of court under powers vested in him by the Drug Court Law, and a manual detailing its operations was drawn up in by Guilbard under his guidance.

“These measures together prescribe the very strict rules and protocols which must be followed and satisfied before a candidate may be graduated as having successfully completed the programme,” the CJ added, as he paid tribute to all the founding members. “I am sure that they share the satisfaction of, and pride in, our three latest programme graduates.”

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