A pilot project aimed at providing an opportunity for non-violent drug dependent offenders to be rehabilitated, as an alternative to immediate incarceration when convicted, is expected to be rolled out in September.
The plan was shared with National Security Minister Jack Warner, Justice Minister Herbert Volney and Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development Marlene Coudray at a meeting held yesterday with Chief Justice Ivor Archie at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain.
Archie, at the opening of the 2011-2012 law term in November last year, spoke of his desire to have established, what is popularly referred to as, a Drug Court.
He said then the experience in the hemisphere, and particularly in Jamaica which has a significant drug problem, has shown that the approach to be adopted ultimately leads to a significant reduction in the number of repeat offenders and a decrease in the number of persons appearing before the Courts.
Judiciary Court protocol and information manager, Jones P Madeira, in a statement to the media, said yesterday's meeting reviewed the evolution, growth and success of these types of institutions in Canada and the United States since the first one was established in Florida, USA, in 1989.
He said the discussions also centred on areas of support and the level of collaboration needed from each ministry for the successful establishment of such a facility in this country.
Madeira said arrests for drug dependent offences exceed 5,000 annually in Trinidad and Tobago. This, he said, carried with it implications for backlogs in the court system, the cost of incarceration, recidivism and public health.
The project is being undertaken by a steering committee comprised of officials from the Judiciary, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Ministry of National Security including the Police and the National Drug Council (NDC), and the Ministry of Justice including probation services, the Prisons Services, the Legal Unit and the Forensic Science Centre.
Officials from the Judiciary's Court Administrative Unit, headed by Court executive administrator Michelle Austin, Office of the Attorney General, Ministry of the People, and Ministry of Health, were also in attendance at the meeting.
Steering committee members Justice Geoffrey Henderson and Esther Best, manager of the National Drug Council, also made presentations. —Keino Swamber