A team of Organization of American States (OAS) and International Association of Drug Treatment Court officials, along with national and region-wide anti-drug institutions, are hard at work, assisting in the development of drug courts in the Southern Hemisphere. Among the states that the OAS is working closely with are Barbados, Chile, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago (T&T), . Antonio Alomba leads the OAS effort to assist South American and Caribbean nations in the development of drug courts. In the training held in Trinidad, between Feb.21-23. IADTC President, Justice Kofi Barnes of the Ontario Supreme Court, led a team of drug court professionals from Canada, the United States, and the Caribbean (Jamaica specifically).
Having been part of training programs in the past, I was very impressed with the professional quality of the training itself, and the seriousness and commitment that the T & T magistrates showed over the course of the training. The training itself was the result of a special criminal justice committee, focused on drug treatment courts, led by the Honourable Mr. Justice Geoffrey Henderson, of the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago [see photo on left].
There are other organizations, both national and international, engaged in the development of drug courts outside their national borders. I bring this particular training to your attention because I was in attendance, and because i believe that prison and criminal justice reform are directly and inextractibly connected to drug courts. The OAS and IADCP are well aware that where drug courts show themselves to be effective, that can be the first step toward real prison reform and the development of other alternatives to prison.
I have a slightly different perspective. When abroad, I try to visit criminal courts and prisons in many of the countries I visit. It’s my belief that there are differences in cultural approaches to criminal rehabilitation that can be of tremendous importance to American drug courts. And that there is much to learn from the criminal justice systems in other, more traditional cultures.