As the government moves to make medical marijuana legal through the passage of the Cannabis Control Bill, criminologist Dr Randy Seepersad says work must be done to control drug use in the nation’s prisons.
Known as ‘T&T’s biggest drug block’, the prison system utilizes drugs as rewards as well as to keep prisoners calm.
Speaking at a virtual marijuana symposium hosted by the Catholic Commission for Social Justice, Seepersad said it was important for drug testing as well as other diagnostic testing to be done for all inmates when they enter the T&T prison system.
He also called for an education campaign focusing on the dangers of drug use to be implemented in all prisons.
“This should be carefully planned to cater to the realities within the prison. Many inmates believe that drugs are necessary in prison as it calms the prisoner and reduces violence. Prisoners are therefore resistant to the idea of reducing or eliminating drugs in prison without careful planning,” he said.
He noted that drug treatment should be made available to all prisoners and should be mandatory for those who screen positive for drug usage.
“While full drug treatment facilities need not be on a place to all prisons, the logistics and security issues involved in moving prisoners to various locations for drug treatment imply that all least some services should be available at all prisons. There should be some facilities which operate as full drug treatment centres for prisoners,” he said.
Seepersad said measures should be put in place to reduce the access to illegal substances in prisons of T&T.
“Prisons with a higher prevalence of illegal drug usage should be given emphasis. It should be noted here as indicated earlier, that drugs within prison service serve to placate inmates and in the case of cigarettes, provides a reward system which can be used for behaviour regulation. The elimination of drugs in prison will only be successful with the provision of proper treatment for users so that the demand within prison is reduced,” he added.
He also recommended that drug testing be used in making decisions about parole.
“Prisoners who test positive for drugs should not be given parole or early release and this should be made known to prisoners,” he said.
He also said consideration should be given to follow up with released persons to assess changes in drug consumption, post-release. This is especially important for known drug users and addicts,” he said.
He also said pre-employment screening for prison officers should include mandatory drug testing and should determine whether the candidate has prior drug-related offences.
—Radhica De Silva