Ministry of Justice Promoting Peaceful Solutions to Disputes

Photo: Yhomo Hutchinson Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Carol Palmer.

Story Highlights

  • The Ministry of Justice has embarked on a national drive to promote peaceful solutions to disputes in schools and the wider community.
  • Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Carol Palmer, says that the Ministry is increasing the use of non-court initiatives, including mediation and restorative justice practices.
  • The Permanent Secretary shares that her vision is for Jamaica “to be the first restorative justice country in the world, becoming a society where we seek to settle issues among ourselves”.

The Ministry of Justice has embarked on a national drive to promote peaceful solutions to disputes in schools and the wider community.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Carol Palmer, says that the Ministry is increasing the use of non-court initiatives, including mediation and restorative justice practices.

She notes that at the school level, principals, deans of discipline, guidance counsellors and other facilitators are being trained to resolve disputes between students as well as incidents involving teachers and students.

“We have been working in schools as we seek to acknowledge and do our part in creating an environment that reduces the active violence that happens there,” she points out in an interview on the Jamaica Information Services’ (JIS) Issues and Answers television programme.

“Instead of labelling students ‘bad’, the Ministry equips persons with the skills to deal with conflict and to, instead, treat with the behaviour,” she adds.

Mrs. Palmer informs that the Ministry is also on a mission to increase the number of Justices of the Peace (JP) serving communities.

She says there are approximately 7,000 JPs in the island, and the objective is to double the number to provide one JP for every 100 citizens.

She says they will be equipped to serve as first responders in settling disputes before these incidents require the intervention of the police. Training is under way with JPs across the island.

“These JPs will be required to be peace initiators, as the original function of the JP was to be the peacekeeper in the community,” Mrs. Palmer tells JIS News.

“This is the reason for the islandwide push in training the JPs in mediation and restorative justice practices,” she adds.

The Permanent Secretary is encouraging decent citizens to apply to become JPs, noting that adequate due diligence will be done to ensure the suitability of the candidates.

“We want the citizens to have what they need without having to seek it illegally and to also allow the JPs to operate with integrity,” she says.

The Permanent Secretary shares that her vision is for Jamaica “to be the first restorative justice country in the world, becoming a society where we seek to settle issues among ourselves”.

She contends that a lot of problems the country now faces start in the home, because people have not learnt peaceful ways to discipline and settle disputes.

“The lack of peace in society comes from a lack of peace in communities, which comes from a lack of peace in families,” she says.

“Your child does something and you beat them. You don’t have a conversation with the child to expand their ability to reason,” she points out.

“This needs to change so that when something happens, even if you are not there, they will do the right thing. They are not dependent on you being over their backs,” she notes further.

Mrs. Palmer argues further that conflict management in the basic family unit will then multiply and result in a reduction of crime and violence in the wider society.

“Conflict is not preventable, as we are all different. However, all we need to do is manage the situation,” she points out.

The Permanent Secretary says “it is recognised that there are just a few persons who create the problems that we are having, so the rest of us need to rise up and take back our country”.

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