02-20-2007, 04:07 AM
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Jamaica: Allow prisoners to use ganja says former prison doc
Former prison doctor wants controlled use of drug . Suggests a study be done to determine usefulness
BY TANEISHA LEWIS Observer staff reporter
Monday, February 19, 2007
CONTROVERSIAL former prison doctor Raymoth Notice yesterday backed the controlled use of ganja by inmates in the island's prisons, and at the same time suggested that a study be done to determine its usefulness.
".I am an advocate for the controlled medical use of ganja in our prisons. I have seen it work in our prison system as an antidepressant in HIV/AIDS inmates, analgesics, anti-emetic and for insomnia," said Dr Notice, in a letter yesterday to the editor of the Observer. "The use of ganja in prison provides a golden opportunity to explore scientifically its useful effects," he said.
He suggested that the research takes place on a long-term basis and not just to satisfy the needs of relaxation by prisoners and warders.
His proposal to study the effects of ganja smoking in prisons found favour with Professor Barry Chevannes, who chaired the National Commission on Ganja in 2000, which recommended the legalisation of small amounts of ganja for personal use.
The committee's recommendations are still before Parliament.
"Any effort to gain knowledge is to be supported and commended and the effort by Dr Notice to study the effects of ganja on the prison population I would say is to be supported," said Professor Chevannes. ".To be meaningful, any study has to adhere to scientific rigour that we know is needed in any kind of scientific study," he added.
However, Commissioner of Corrections Major Richard Reese told the Observer that the Correctional Service would not entertain such a venture. He said that several programmes currently exist within the system to assist inmates with addiction issues. He said, too, that his department was working to stomp out the smuggling of ganja into the island's prisons.
"We have various intervention programmes and we believe that we are winning the war," said Major Reese. "We are also hoping to increase out recreational and education facilities," said the prison's boss.
But, Dr Notice, the former mayor of Spanish Town and the incumbent councillor for the Bog Walk Division of the St Catherine Parish Council, said the adverse inhumane conditions under which inmates live - overcrowded, mice-infested prison cells, the likelihood of being raped and the possibility of being HIV-infected - have pushed them to seek a false sense of relaxation and acceptance, which they find in smoking ganja.
"From my experience as a medical officer within the prisons of St Catherine, ganja has interesting and advantageous effects on prisoners and subsequently their environs. When ganja is scarce in the prison system there is an atmosphere of tension, increase in prison fights among inmates, the use of excessive force by correctional officers and less request for medication," Dr Notice wrote in his letter to the Observer.
He claimed that there have been instances where inmates who presented with severe pains for various reasons were relieved after using ganja.
"Ganja was the only thing which relieve the painful conditions," said the former prison doctor. He said, however, that ganja smoking exacerbated the condition of schizophrenic inmates.
At the same time, Dr Notice said correctional officers had also used ganja to eliminate fear and depression created by the stressful and hazardous nature of their job.
"No officer feels safe at the present ratio of officer-to-inmate; their use of ganja is easily understood," he said.
There are approximately 5,000 people in the island's eight adult prisons, including one correctional centre for women.
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