Health Ministry never crafted Narco Specialised Unit – CoI
Deadly Prison Riot
By Shemuel Fanfair
In light of prisoners of the Camp Street penitentiary who expressed that marijuana, among other contraband items, helps “to cool them
down”, the Commission of Inquiry report into the fatal Camp Street Prison fire observed that systems for the rehabilitation of substance abuse inmates were not put in place.
According to the report, commissioners noted that the law stipulates that persons who are convicted of narcotics offences should, under direction of a magistrate, attend “recovery courses” at Special Unit to be established by the Ministry of Health. However, it was pointed out that no such unit came into operation.
Under the section it was stated: “The provision in the Narcotics Act for persons convicted of narcotics offences to be directed by the
magistrate to attend recovery courses at a specialised Unit has never been made viable due to the Ministry of Health never having created the Unit.”
It was further pointed out by the commissioners that the absence of this unit meant that the already burdened Prison Service was forced to address this problem without the availability of the requisite professional resources.
Responding to concerns on how the non-establishment of this specialised unit would have affected the wellbeing of prisoners, attorney who represented the Prison Service Selwyn Pieters on Monday pointed to other jurisdictions where Drug Treatment Courts exist, which
have the mandate to oversee cases of drug offenders who “agree to participate in treatment” for associated substance abuse problems.
“In Canada, the United Kingdom, even Trinidad and Tobago, there are Drug Treatment Courts that deal with offenders or persons in conflict with the law who have criminogenic issues that are directly linked to their addiction,” he noted.
At the 3rd Graduation ceremony of the Drug Treatment Court in the twin-island republic, T&T’s Chief Justice Ivor Archie noted that Drug Treatment Courts are an excellent model for the incorporation of the principle of alternatives to incarceration, guided by the public health approach.”
On March 2 a search at the Camp Street Prison unearthed a barrage of contraband items with several quantities of drugs being confiscated. Attorney Pieters rejected the supposition that heavy withdrawal symptoms from the sized drugs contributed to the rioting.
“There was no evidence led before the Commission of Inquiry to support a link or a nexus to any assertion that either withdrawal from marijuana or addictions to marijuana led to the events on March 02 and March 03, 2016,” Pieters told this newspaper.
When asked if the supposed medical conditions and non-establishment of the unit could absolve inmates of some of their criminal responsibility associated with the deadly prison fires, Pieters reasoned that it was in fact the “take-down” of two inmates which led to ghastly disturbances.
The CoI report further pointed out that indiscipline was well a part of the prisoners’ culture as the act of prisoners lighting fires as means of drawing attention to their causes are grossly irresponsible, despite their grievances over extended trial delays.
“It is strongly believed that the timing of highlighting their grievances was directly related to the contraband items which were confiscated during the Joint Services’ search on March 02, 2016,” observed the Commission.
It was further noted that inmates led by prisoner Shaka Mckenize created “an unnecessary hostile environment” in the Capital A Division by “reacting to the officers operational procedure of extracting ring leaders”.
“Prisoners acted recklessly in lighting fires to highly combustible material –mattresses- which give off toxins and act as accelerants. The burning of mattresses in such an enclosed environment was dangerous,” a section of the report pointed out.