A ‘therapeutic community’ at Al-Islah

National 3 minutes, 49 seconds


BEHIND the 15-foot-high, barbed wire perimeter fences and under the watchful eyes of 24-hour security patrols lies not a prison as one would expect to define it but rather a community of people who are being treated for their drug addiction.

The razor wires of Al-Islah Rehabilitation Centre in Kg Kupang, Tutong District are simply for "standard security" measures, said officers at the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).

"They are not really like criminals," one NCB officer said of the centre's residents. "(They) should be thought of as patients with illnesses that need help healing."

Adopting rehabilitation practices similar to those of its Asean counterparts, Brunei's new drug rehabilitation centre operates on the concept of a "therapeutic community" (TC), where drug abusers are given daily doses of moral support to help them change their bad habits, with a participative, group-based approach.

The TC concept is based on four main components, Chief Narcotics Officer II Abu Bakar Hj Bakir told The Brunei Times during the official opening of Al-Islah Centre yesterday.

Abu Bakar, who is in charge of the programmes at the centre, said the TC calls for a hierarchy, designating ranks such as "mayor", "COD" and "chief" to the drug dependents.

For example, the "mayors" were those who have successfully undergone the rehabilitation process and came back to guide others, acting as role models.

Branding them as "residents" rather than inmates, criminals or prisoners, the drug dependents would feel more open to rehabilitation, Abu Bakar explained.

"From the psychological aspect, calling them residents is easier on the ears. If we call them criminals or prisoners, then they would be more unwilling to the idea of rehabilitation. This is how we start the (rehabilitation) processes," he said.

The first component of the TC was pointing out any wrongdoings or bad habits that the residents had.

"Before, when they were taking drugs, it was most probably because there was no one to tell them that what they were doing was wrong or no one to tell them to stop. Here, everybody helps to point out each other's mistakes," he said.

Secondly, they teach residents at Al-Islah Centre to control their emotions.

"Drugs can affect people's control over their own emotions. So when they get angry or disappointed, they get really, really angry or really disappointed. We have counselling sessions to teach them to control these feelings," he said.

For Muslim residents, Al-Islah Centre was also a place of spiritual healing, which made up the third component of the TC.

"They undergo six months of religious classes, where we bring them back to the basics such as teaching them how to pray, reciting (Quranic) verses and strengthening their belief in Islam," said Abu Bakar.

At present, there is no similar arrangement for non-Muslim residents at the centre. However, they are given other duties to fill their time.

Present to officiate the opening of the Al-Islah Rehabilitation Centre at Jln Kerakas Payau, Tutong, was Royal Highness Prince Hj 'Abdul 'Azim.

Upon arrival, His Royal Highness was welcomed by senior officials from the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) before being briefed on the centre by the Commandant of Al-Islah Centre, Hj Roslan Hj Suhaili.

His Royal Highness also toured the new facility, which is one of the projects under the Eighth National Development Plan, with a price tag of $18 million built on a 50-acre site.

The construction of the centre, which began on August 6, 2007, took longer than initially expected due to the change of hands over managing the construction the centre between different government agencies, according to NCB officers.

The "keys" to the building were handed over to NCB's Director, Hj Abd Aziz OKMB Hj Othman from Director of Public Works Department Hj Suhaimi Hj Abd Ghaffar on January 30.

The NCB took over Al-Islah Centre on February 1, 2010 from the Prisons Department and the centre commenced full operations on the same day, according to a statement from NCB.

The centre is run by 104 officers and staff and has the capacity to house 200 male and 100 female "residents". Currently, there are a total of 110 residents, of which 95 are male and 15 female.

These residents were moved from the former Al-Islah Centre building at Jalan Pelumpong in Muara.

The centre has a main administration building, an exhibition and sales block, a security block, male and female residents' blocks, a "detox" block, a counselling block, an academic block, workshops and a prayer hall.

The Brunei Times