It wasn’t so many years ago that the courts were harshly criticised for ‘sending a boy to jail for a stick of ganja’.
Of course, it wasn’t that straightforward. The ‘boy’ with rare exception was an adult, albeit young, and his appearance in court would not have been his first.
The typical sentencing pattern was fine for the first and maybe a second drug consumption and simple possession offence. The next similar offence would merit probation or a suspended sentence. After that, there weren’t many other options except imprisonment.
Since the late 1980s and early ’90s, we have learned that punishment does not cure addiction. We have also come to realise that certain addicts will steal or burgle or obtain property by deception in order to feed their habit.
How can these crimes be stopped? One way is to help the offenders overcome addiction and break the cycle of drugs and crime.
There are many people in Cayman affected by drug use; the addicts, their family members and the victims of their crimes. Anything that can alleviate the situation deserves our attention.
The Drug Rehabilitation Court is addressing the problem and deserves the support of the entire community. Employers especially can play an important role.
The goal for drug abusers enrolled in the drug rehab court is for them to stay sober, establish a stable home environment and maintain steady employment.
Once involved in the programme, they have assistance from probation officers, counsellors, health professionals and social workers if necessary, and from the court itself. All of these people want the addict to succeed and will monitor, chastise and encourage the offender to stay on track.
It is hoped the result is a rehabilitated person who is likely to come to work on time every day, have a good attitude and be willing to learn. If not, he or she knows what might well happen at the next progress appraisal by the drug rehab court team.
Earlier this year, Cabinet Minister Arden McLean remarked on the positive work ethic of men coming from drug rehabilitation to employment in a department under his ministry. He encouraged chief officers in other departments to hire people who are trying to make a change in their lives after rehabilitation from drug addiction.
We encourage the private sector to embrace the goals of the Drug Rehabilitation Court as well, and to give those coming out of the programme a chance for steady employment whenever possible.