Gov. Ralph DLG Torres signed a bill yesterday to fund the CNMI Drug Court an amount of $150,000, $125,000 of which will be allocated to drug court personnel.
Introduced by Rep. Antonio Sablan (Ind-Saipan) and sponsored by Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan), the drug court bill passed both houses of the Legislature this month, and will allow the CNMI, once the drug court is implemented, to join Guam and the rest of U.S. mainland, all of which have drug courts, in a collaborative effort to address the devastating effects that drug crime has had on CNMI families and the community.
“This is another step closer to our goal. There is going to be some trial and error but we’re moving forward,” Torres said at a signing event yesterday. “It is our obligation as the administration to block drugs from entering our islands.
Torres also noted that x-rays for the CNMI Division of Customs will arrive next week, and pointed to new appropriations for the funding of two drug canines in the coming months to sniff out crime in the community and schools. One of Rota’s schools was reportedly found to have illicit drugs on campus this week.
“The drug court will align us with other jurisdictions who have drug courts,” said Superior Court Associate Judge David Wiseman. “Drug court is a team effort. It’s a whole community effort in getting this started.
“Treatment, enforcement, the Judiciary, the Legislature, and Executive [branch] are all factors,” he added. “This is a community that needs it. You can see the effects [drugs has on our community]. Once the [drug court] gets going, it’s not just for any addict. It’s a qualifying process.
“I’m elated that this’ll be a legacy for [the judiciary] to leave,” said Wiseman, who will be retiring in April.
“We know the problems, we know what they are,” said CNMI Attorney General Edward Manibusan. “These are baby steps and we’re moving forward in terms of funding.”
Chief Justice Alexander Castro expressed his sentiments over the many crimes committed in his time as a judge. “Majority of domestic violence cases and many other crimes are drug related. You can see that we have a high rate of recidivism. [The drug court] will make a difference.”
Castro also spoke to the beginning stages of this effort to from the judiciary to help the community. “Judge Wiseman and I sat down to decide what we wanted to do. Wiseman went out and invited [retired Judge Steve Hansen] to help us. This is one of the happiest days of my life, not just as a judge but [also] as a prosecutor. This is our greatest collaboration with the government to fight illicit drugs.”
“There will be error but don’t lose faith,” said Hansen, a retired judge from Utah who has volunteered his efforts on behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints. “Stay on course. You will see the results. If it’s run properly…and I am very confident in your judiciary, you’ll be satisfied with the results.”
Torres also thanked members of the House of Representatives, Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation, and Hansen for their continued support and commitment to putting the drug court plans into action.