Large International Delegation Visits DC Superior Court’s Drug Court Program

 

Large International Delegation Visits DC Superior Court’s Drug Court Program

Court officials from South America and the Caribbean Observe One of the District’s Problem-Solving Court Programs


DC Superior Court Acting Chief Judge Frederick Weisberg (2nd from left) and Drug Court Program Presiding Judge Gregory Jackson (4th from left) with delegation members.

Drug policy and prison reform are not only major topics in the United States, but the entire western hemisphere. From December 1-3rd, the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission hosted a high-level dialogue on “Alternatives to Incarceration for Drug-Related Offenses” in Washington, D.C. OAS reports more than 3.5 million people are imprisoned, with at least one-third for drug-related crimes.


Drug Court Program Presiding Judge Gregory Jackson

According to OAS, large scale incarceration can result in conflicts with basic human rights, such as those stemming from overcrowded prisons. “The majority of individuals incarcerated for drug-related crimes are not high-level drug traffickers, but those in the lower tiers of the supply chain,” said Luis Almagro, OAS Secretary General. He went on to say “…we must reserve the right to punishment when required, but also safeguard human rights.”

On December 2, 2015 chief justices, judges, and presiding officers of many courts and crime-prevention organizations from countries throughout South America, the Caribbean, Canada, Spain, and various U.S. territories visited the DC Superior Court’s Drug Intervention Program (SCDIP).


PSA Director Cliff Keenan addresses the group

Presiding Judge Gregory Jackson welcomed over 100 conference attendees to observe SCDIP’s pre-court staffing and morning hearings. SCDIP, a partnership between the Superior Court and the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia (PSA), is one of the Superior Court’s problem solving court programs, and is often referred to simply as ‘Drug Court.’ Since 1993, SCDIP has been a model not only amongst the 2,500 drug court programs in the U.S., but globally as well. Examining actual SCDIP proceedings has been a useful aid for the many international visitors seeking reform in their respective criminal justice systems.

After observing the hearings, discussions ranged from topics such as the effect of the decriminalization of marijuana in the District to quality assurance of the program, leading to an explanation of SCDIP’s fail-proof method for ‘random’ drug testing. Acting Chief Judge Frederick Weisberg, the longest sitting DC Superior Court judge, further explained the positive impact of SCDIP as he was a part of its inception. Attendees also heard from PSA Director Cliff Keenan who was integral in SCDIP’s establishment and progression. Observing SCDIP was one of the successful approaches of the visiting delegation in its mission to understand alternatives to incarceration for drug-related offenses.

 

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updated on 1/20/2016 3:43:52 PM