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Rehabilitation on Instead of incarceration in Jamaica

January 1, 2001 · 

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Recognition that one has a drug problem is the most important prerequisite to being accepted in the Drug Court Programme in Jamaica.  In two designated Magistrate Courts in Kingston and Montego Bay, it is now possible to avoid incarceration or a heavy fine for possession of marijuana, cocaine or heroin or even crimes committed while under the influence of drugs if an individual is accepted into a court approved rehabilitation programme.

The programme, which was established earlier this year with the advisory assistance of the Drug Court in Toronto and LTNDCP, has already handled dozens of cases.  Informal guidelines have been developed over the past couple of months to suit the local situation.  A permanent address, a family connection or person willing to take responsibility for the client, and regular participation in the counselling sessions are important criteria for acceptance and staying in the programme.

During its recent visit to the courts, UNDCP saw one participant dropped from the programme for dealing in drugs, one sent back to jail for one night to impress upon him the importance of consistent attendance in the rehabilitation sessions, while three others “graduated” to bi weekly visits to the court (otherwise they are required to return once a week).  One participant walks four miles each way to attend the group counselling sessions held three times per week.  In addition to the regular drug testing, peer pressure appears to keep the recovering addicts

“clean” and “honest”.

Most of the clients are cocaine addicts and so there is a high degree of probability that many may relapse.  The counsellors know that several of those accepted are “borderline” cases.  The biggest problem in Jamaica is finding a suitable living and work environment, however for many, there is no alternative to drug ridden slums of Kingston and Montego Bay.  The principle debate among the treatment providers is whether to put the participants in a 24-hour residential care facility, but eventually they must return to life “outside”.  Therefore, the attitude of the client is most important.  If the addict is willing to commit to staying off drugs” to avoid jail the law in Jamaica

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