A prudent move | Daily News

A prudent move

The decision taken to rehabilitate drug addicts while placing them under house arrest is a prudent move given that a prison environment is not the most suitable for the purpose of rehabilitation. In fact such a move should have been thought of long before this since the home environment in the presence of one's near and dear would have been the most effective solution towards complete rehabilitation. Even the so-called drug rehabilitation centres currently in operation have failed in the exercise to a great extent as could be judged from the recent riot and breakout from a rehabilitation of nearly 100 drug addicts. Apparently the rehabilitation exercise had failed to have the desired effect in this instance.

According to State Minister of Justice and Prison Affairs Anuradha Jayaratne, drug addicts from now on will be placed under house arrest and rehabilitated by probation officers. He told the media that 65 percent of prisoners were drug addicts and it was not possible to rehabilitate them in prisons. He also said that the Rehabilitation Act would be amended to enable drug addicts to be rehabilitated without a court order.

The move while providing a solution for prisons overcrowding would also be a positive step in the whole rehabilitation programme for drug addicts which has been proved ineffective given that drug addicts are known to return to the habit after a short while after their so-called rehabilitation, according to reports. Besides, most of the drug addicts are behind bars for being unable to fork out fines imposed by the courts. Most of them have been taken in for possession of a few grams of heroin and are liable to remain in prison for lengthy periods while undergoing ineffective rehabilitation in a prison environment. Steps should also be taken to follow up on those who have completed their rehabilitation while under house arrest to ensure they don't go astray again in which event the whole rehabilitation would be an exercise in futility.

While the step taken for rehabilitating drug addicts in a congenial environment is welcome, the accent, however, should be on prevention of drug addiction. The widespread use of the deadly 'ICE' narcotic has brought to the fore the need for combating the drug distribution network with might and main, particularly the addiction of schoolchildren. The current steps taken by the law enforcement to exercise vigilance in the vicinity of schools therefore is a step in the right direction. For what is at stake is our future generation. All efforts should also be made to prevent the entry of dangerous drugs into the country. The redoubled efforts of the Sri Lanka Navy to detect fishing boats coming into our waters from across the Palk Straits carrying ‘ICE’ hopefully would cripple the supply network to a great extent. For it has now been revealed that ‘ICE’ is coming here from South India where the drug is being produced as a cottage industry. The deployment of the STF for drug detection is also a positive step given the record of the outfit particularly during the war against terror. The war against drugs too should be fought in the same vein.

There certainly is a well organised drug mafia in the country responsible for luring the young towards addiction. The drugs are induced in quite innocent ways laced with sweets, ice cream etc. so that addiction takes place unknowingly. Therefore, it certainly is going to be a complicated exercise in combating drug addiction for they are introduced in spurious ways to lure the unsuspecting. In a dangerous trend even schoolgirls too have taken to the drug habit in a big way according to media reports, complicating things even further. Worse, even some Police officers too have been found to be involved in the drug distribution. The arrest of a SSP serving in the Monaragala District with a haul of ganja (cannabis) tells a tale. Obviously there is big money to be earned in the drugs business. Hence, breaking the back of the drugs network is going to be a tough job. Nevertheless, all efforts of the authorities should be directed towards eradicating the drug menace. For, as mentioned, the youth are increasingly taking to drugs at present and once addicted to a drug such as ‘ICE’ rehabilitation, even under house arrest, is going to be a doubtful proposition.

Not just drug addicts, those convicted for minor offences and serving prison terms too should be reprieved and similarly placed under house arrest until the expiry of the period of their sentences. In fact such a move was being contemplated by former Prison Reforms State Minister Lohan Ratwatte as a means of easing prison congestion. Needless to say, our entire prison system needs a thorough overhaul in order to rid itself of corruption and sleaze. Our prisons should also be made habitable to the inmates. Needless to say, our prisons are today notorious for their inhuman conditions, so much so, that if prisons are meant to serve as correction centres to those who have erred they are only going to have the opposite effect. Instead of rehabilitating, those living in these conditions are only likely to get bitter and more angry with society which will have the effect of hardening them more and more inclined towards crime. Ideally what we should have here is the open air prison concept like in some developed countries where the inmates are allowed to interact with their loved ones and making such centres a home away from home.

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