With the aim of reducing the prison population and fixing the social ills which stem from drug abuse, Guyana’s first Drug Treatment Court opened its doors this morning.
The establishment of the Court has received support from the Ministry of Public Security, the local Judiciary, the Organization of American States, the Inter- America Drug Abuse Council, the National Anti Narcotics Agency and the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit.
It forms part of the National Drug Treatment Plan 2016-2020.
The new Drug Treatment Court is located at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court Building.
Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary Justice Yonette Cummings spoke at the launching ceremony for the new Court.
She said while the Court has the mandate to enforce the law, it must also find distinctive ways of doing so.
The Chancellor said that with the number of drug offenses being committed, the Judiciary has come to the realization that many of the offenders have a drug abuse problem and as such the idea was birthed to establish a Court to focus on those drug abusers.
“This is just a pilot court, its small step but it’s a step in the right direction, for as someone said it its better step in the right direction than to take a giant leap forward and to tumble backward,” Chancellor Cummings said.
Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan underscored the importance of a Drug Treatment Court in Guyana. He said it is a bold step to establish the Court and that step is supported by various studies.
He said research has shown that 1/5 of the prison population is made up of persons on drug-related charges and that is taking a toll on the country’s finances.
Attorney General Basil Williams said that while the government must protect citizens, it must also focus on its social responsibility to assist in the rehabilitation of citizens.
Williams said the country must provide help for those persons who might be faced with the ills of society.
The OAS representative in Guyana Jean Ricot Dormeus, applauded the move to establish the Court and said it could see stronger communities and families being built, adding that punishment without rehabilitation serves no good.
Six Magistrates are listed to work on a temporary basis in the new Court.
They will seek to determine the treatment for the offenders rather than incarceration for drug abuse crimes.