Jamaica Will Create Prison Drug Treatment Program

By McCarton Ackerman 07/13/15

After decriminalizing marijuana this year, the island country now plans to help incarcerated addicts.

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Other countries appear to be taking notice of the positive results of prison drug treatment programs across the U.S., with Jamaica announcing plans to implement their own program for inmates.

The National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) will team up with the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) in Kingston in order to reduce drug use among prisoners. Michael Tucker, executive director of the NCDA, said the program is designed to educate inmates on the harmful effects of drugs and give them coping tools to handle stressful situations. Correctional officers will also be trained to implement these preventative measures.

“A long-term drug treatment and education prevention program is important,” said Tucker. “We need to build awareness and promote better coping skills for the prisoners.”

A regional study released last year by the NCDA found that marijuana was the most commonly used drug among convicted and released inmates both in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean. About 75% of the Jamaicans surveyed admitted to using the drug at least once in their lifetime, while that number varied between 68-86% throughout other Caribbean countries.

However, half the current and former inmates surveyed throughout the Caribbean felt that imprisonment led to drug use. About 21% also reported relapsing as a result of their incarceration.

It also remains to be seen how the prison program will address marijuana given the country’s revised laws on the substance. A landmark was passed last February on what would have been Bob Marley’s 70th birthday that makes possessing two ounces or less of marijuana a ticketable offense, but one that can no longer put the owner in jail.

From January to July 2013, most of the 4,367 people convicted for drug-related offenses throughout the country were given sentences for marijuana possession. Raymond Pryce, deputy general secretary of People’s National Party, said that imprisoning non-violent drug offenders “affects intergenerational wealth and the ability of the individual to advance in society.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.