Sherab Lhamo

Chamgang Central Prison inmates serving prison terms for substance use and related cases began a routine schedule through a six-phase treatment to help them re-enter society as productive and responsible citizens.

Commemorating the birth anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth King, the PEMA Secretariat launched a Prison-Based Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Care programme at Chamgang Central Prison in Thimphu on November 11.

The programme will provide inmates with a 12-step programme which is a self-help guide, Sorig Zhiney and Luejong mindfulness and yoga practices, livelihood and skills training, and reintegration and aftercare support.

Royal Bhutan Police apprehended 1,702 individuals from January to June 25,2023, from which 46.7 percent, which is almost 800 Individuals, were charged for drug-related cases.

“Studies have shown that imprisonment and punishment do not have a significant deterrent effect on substance use,” said a PEMA Secretariat official.

The program will be a peer-led approach, where two females and 10 males, were oriented and given the necessary materials on the program, said Dorji Tshering from The PEMA Secretariat.

He said those inmates had been to rehab in the past and knew about the program. They are a self-help support group, that will guide the other inmates.

To ensure that the inmates follow the schedule, a hierarchy system is put in place where oriented inmates will help the others to stick to the schedule, which will be monitored by the police.

In the six phases of treatment, the first phase is the orientation where the inmates are oriented on the rules, norms, rituals, job functions, and others for a period of two to three months.

The intensive treatment phase will focus on socialisation, personal growth, and psychological awareness, while learning to set goals, for a span of nine months.

The third phase, vocational skills development phase, spanning nine months, will prepare inmates to transition into an Open-Air Prison Community, where they will undergo vocational skills training and development at the reformatory workshop.

Phase four is the open-air prison phase where inmates will continue to attend self-help group meetings and maintain a daily structure. In phase five, the Community Reintegration Phase, inmates will prepare for re-entry into the wider community and make plans to become productive citizens, three months prior to release.

In the last phase, the aftercare or continuing care phase, held post-release, inmates will be linked to aftercare services in the community as needed.

“The programme is set to end in 14 months, based on the observation of how well they are able to finish each phase,” said the official.