Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Robert Rainford, said that government is committed to achieving a safe and harmonious society in which all citizens can live without fear and injustice.
He was addressing Friday’s (Feb. 10) official opening of the Granville Restorative Justice Centre located in St. James.
The facility was the fourth and final to open under the Ministry’s Restorative Justice Programme, which is being piloted in four communities across the island. The others, which were launched earlier in the week, are in Tower Hill, St. Andrew; May Pen, Clarendon; and Spanish Town, St. Catherine.
Mr. Rainford said the programme seeks to empower citizens in communities with peaceful means and structures for resolving conflict and achieving justice.
He said the move comes at a time when conflicts leading to crime and violence remain the single most serious issue affecting social order and public safety in Jamaica. He said research shows that reprisals are a contributing factor to the high crime statistics.
“The power of criminal networks in some communities and the lack of understanding and trust in the justice process, along with delays, have resulted in numerous acts of vigilante justice,” he argued.
Mr. Rainford stated that while the government has fostered dispute resolution procedures within the society and in the justice system in particular, “we have to go beyond alternate dispute resolution, to focus on restoring balance and equilibrium to tarnished or harmed relationships,” hence the focus on restorative justice.
He said that the establishment of the restorative justice centres will provide services and facilities that both victims and offenders can readily access, thereby moving them from the periphery to the centre of the healing process.
Stating that the opening of the Granville facility represents a “new day” for the community, the Permanent Secretary urged all “peace-loving and law-abiding citizens to embrace this window of opportunity, as a fresh wind of change is blowing your way”.
In commending the move by the Ministry of Justice, Custos of St. James, Hon. Ewen Corrodus, said that restorative justice is the remedy “for the cancer of crime that is eating away the very life of the society."
He urged residents of Granville, “to join hands and hearts together, as we work for the upliftment of this community and for the good of this parish and this nation. I pledge my personal support to the activities of this centre… that will administer the vaccination against infections and spread of the cancer of crime”.
By Glenis Rose, JIS Reporter