JIS News

Some 700 persons have been trained as dispute mediators at the Resident Magistrate’s Court level, since the beginning of this year.
All the mediators have completed the 40 hours of basic training and now offer their services at centres in Spanish Town, Trench Town, Flankers, East Kingston, and the Dispute Resolution Foundation or are a part of the peace building capacity of their community or the organization in which they are employed.
This was announced by Training Manager at the Foundation, Jennifer Williams, during a recent interview with JIS News. She also pointed out that the number of mediators has increased by over 100 annually.
According to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Dispute Resolution Foundation, Donna Parchment, thousands of persons are exposed to mediation training.
“The Dispute Resolution Foundation, working through a number of projects and working with a number of organizational clients and individuals, have had the opportunity to literally expose thousands of persons to mediation training,” she emphasized.
This is in line with the Foundation’s mission to achieve accommodative and non violent relationships between citizens within a democratic and restorative justice framework.
To this end, Miss Parchment explained that mediators are now in the schools, workplaces and communities in an attempt to “acquire better conflict resolution skills to solve disputes.” She also pointed out that a course for the abusers in domestic violence, funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), would come on stream in early 2008. The course will examine the causes of different conflicts and their psychological effects on individuals.
She said that the mediation exposure included sensitization workshops of between 1 hour and 2 days and the full basic training workshop of 6 days or 40 hours. Miss Parchment revealed that 32 mediators were on the Supreme Court roster. They have completed the basic training, a practicum and an advanced mediator’s course, after which they were interviewed.
“We are looking to expand to ensure that in all the major towns in Jamaica and certainly in the Western region there are fully certified Supreme Court mediators, who do the basic training, practicum and an advanced mediator course, after which they are interviewed and if found acceptable, they are recommended to the Chief Justice for inclusion in the roster,” she said.
Partners in the training sessions include the Citizens, Security and Justice Programme (CSJP), Peace and Love in Society (PALS), SISTREN and other non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
Acting Mediation Manager at the Foundation, Camille Lee explained that mediation was an “invaluable part of the justice process,” which was completely client driven. She pointed out that over 63 per cent of cases heard in the Supreme Court were being settled through mediation.
Meanwhile, Miss Parchment said that the mediators at both the Resident Magistrate Court and Supreme Court levels have had a phenomenal impact on the justice system.
“In my view the introduction of these alternative dispute resolution strategies into the justice system has been one of the most significant reforms of the justice system in over 100 years,” she said. “What this has done is move us to a situation where the justice system is partnering with civil society to deliver services to the public,” Miss Parchment added.
She pointed out that mediation impacted on the speed of the justice system. “If you take out of the Supreme Court each year 60 per cent of the civil matters that are going to be tried, then it means there is more judicial time available to deal with the criminal matters,” she said.
Meanwhile, Miss Lee said that, “you can literally see the change in people’s perceptions and perspectives in relation to violence and the causes of conflict and their understanding of what has gotten them to where they are now and how they can go about acting differently in dealing with situations in their own immediate lives.”
Each party pays $1,000 for mediation in the Resident Magistrate’s Court and $12,500 in the Supreme Court.

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