The Organization of American States (OAS), in a collaborative effort with the National Association of Drug Court professionals (NADCP), brought together this week in Nashville, United States, 80 professionals from Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico and Panama to receive practical training on setting up and managing drug treatment courts (DTCs).
The meeting, in which judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and treatment providers from Puerto Rico also took part, was part of the annual NADCP conference, which this year brought together more than 4000 professionals in justice and health. The meeting, coordinated by the Inter-American Drug Abuse Commission (CICAD) of the OAS, is the first time that so many Spanish-speaking delegates underwent practical training that included attending pre-trial and trial sessions in which they studied actual cases of drug dependent offenders.
"Though not the only solution for countries that are dealing with a drug problem, this model is an effective solution on which there is scientific evidence of success, that permits us to recover the individual drug-dependent offender, while reducing the crime rate in our countries," said Ambassador Paul E. Simons, CICAD Executive Secretary, in his opening remarks.
Speaking as the NADCP Director, West Huddleston recalled the importance of this strategic alliance and underscored their support of CICAD and the countries working to promote this model.
CICAD used the occasion to consolidate the acceptance of this model in participating countries. Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Argentina (Salta Province) plan to open pilot projects in the coming months. Chile already has 19 courts operating. Mexico opened its first DTC two years ago and is exploring new pilot projects elsewhere in the country.
At leadership forums and skills-building workshops, CICAD drew on the participation of strong international DTC advocates, such as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Jamaica, Zaila McCalla; Judge Kofi Barnes, president of the Canadian Association of Drug Court Professionals (which organized a similar experience with CICAD for Caribbean professionals in March in Toronto); Judge Rogelio Flores, Chair of the International Section of the NADCP, and Director Enrique Betancourt Gaona, head of the National Center for Crime Prevention and Citizen Participation of Mexico.
The Program for Drug Treatment Tribunals in the Americas is being financed by the governments of Canada, the United States and Trinidad and Tobago.
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