The first Restorative Justice Centre was opened in Tower Hill, West Central St. Andrew, on February 6.
This is the first of four restorative justice centres to be opened in the island as part of the Ministry of the Justice’s thrust to implement alternative dispute resolution programmes that promote social cohesion.
At a ceremony to mark the opening, held at the Olympic Gardens Civic Centre, Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, in his message, said that restorative justice is representative of participatory justice, because it requires the involvement of the victims, offenders and the community.
Read by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Robert Rainford, the message added that restorative justice has the capacity to repair the individual and societal damages done to communities across Jamaica, due to high levels of crime and violence.
“The Ministry of Justice supports this innovative approach, one that encourages the offender to take responsibility for harmful behaviour in a meaningful way and to gain insight into the causes and effect of that behaviour on others,” the Minister said.
Senator Golding urged members of the Tower Hill community to utilise the services of the centre, especially in cases where disputes have emerged and a solution is imminent.
“If there is a conflict between yourself and a family member, even a conflict with a stranger, please visit the centre and try and resolve the matter,” Senator Golding urged, while pointing out that this act will help to mitigate the effects of crime and violence that arise from disputes in the communities.
The Minister also informed that a Victim’s Charter is currently under revision and a submission will be sent to Cabinet to seek its approval. He noted that the Charter is a complementary programme that will assist the restorative justice process.
Restorative Justice is a new paradigm that is being introduced by the Justice Ministry. Three additional Restorative Justice Centres will be opened during this week in May Pen, Clarendon; Spanish Town, St. Catherine and Granville, St. James.
By Toni-Ann Russell, JIS PRO