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Denmark spends millions of kroner on Caribbean cruises for young criminals

rehabCOPENHAGEN, Denmark--In a move that appears worthy of inclusion in Ripley's Believe It Or Not, Danish municipalities have spent millions of kroner (Danish crowns) sending young criminals and drug abusers on idyllic Caribbean cruises.

This week it emerged that since 2010, 26 municipalities have spent a combined 42 million kroner to send 59 troubled youngsters on rehab programmes aboard boats that cruise the Caribbean for up to two years at a time.

The figures were revealed on Monday after Metroxpress newspaper obtained access to the records of Denmark's 98 municipalities.

The controversial rehab programme typically puts two or three youths on a small boat along with a captain and a tutor, and the youngsters are schooled on board as the ship sails from one Caribbean port to another.

At the end of a year, the young people are returned to Denmark to sit a graduation exam. Some students repeat the process for a second year-long voyage.

While the programme is open to all municipalities, one of its most frequent users is Frederikssund Municipality, which to date has spent nearly eight million kroner on 12 young people.

"We do it so that they can get away from the environment of drug abuse. They are maybe caught up in crime such as the sale of drugs and theft. Some have been gone for two years, but the norm is one year," Frederikssund's director of family affairs Flemming Olsen told Metroxpress.

John Schmidt Andersen, the municipality's mayor, also defended spending eight million kroner on the tropical rehab project.

"I agree that it looks strange. But this isn't a cruise. There are demands made. I don't care what they do as long as they stop abusing [drugs – Ed.]," Andersen told the newspaper.

According to Metroxpress, the project comes at the same time that the municipality has been told to cut 37 million kroner from its budget. In order to reach that target, Frederikssund has cut down on the number of workers in day-care institutions, closed schools and begun serving vacuum-sealed food to the elderly.

The success of the endeavour doesn't always appear to justify the sacrifice and expense, moreover. A graduate of one of the Caribbean cruises told Metroxpress that drug and alcohol abuse flourish among the participants.

"The Caribbean is probably the world's marijuana capital. It's growing everywhere and even the police smoke it in a lot of places down there, so it's just a matter of finding someone on the streets with a joint and then buying some. I was busted once by the school teacher, but she gave me another chance," a 22-year-old named Christian told Metroxpress.

He added that students aboard the rehab cruises are also allowed to drink alcohol on weekend restaurant trips and at official engagements.

Among the rehab programme's opponents is Helle Hald, the vice-chairman for Foreningen Hjælp Voldsofre, an association that helps the victims of violence. She described the Caribbean tours as "insulting."

"It is an affront to the person who was wronged that those who have violated their rights get these kinds of opportunities," she said.

"For me, there is no doubt that when a victim reads about these Caribbean cruises, nine out of 10 of them will feel further violated and insulted," she told Metroxpress. ~ Caribbean360 ~

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