JIS News

The Ministry of Justice is continuing its restorative justice campaign, targeting young people in schools, exposing them to the principles of restorative justice and thereby motivating this cohort to adopt good social interaction skills.
The series of public meetings continued on Wednesday, March 8 at Campion College in Kingston where Senior Governance Programme Manager for the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Louise Valle, addressed fourth and fifth form students.
She said that as a result of the successful implementation of restorative justice in her country, some provinces had been reducing the number of youth correctional facilities that were operational, as these had become unnecessary.
Mrs. Valle told the gathering of students and teachers from Campion College and Priory High that in Canada “the rate of recidivism has dropped dramatically,” as a result of restorative justice programmes.
Referring to one of Canada’s youth justice policies, Mrs. Valle said, “instead of sending young people to prison, at the police level, the moment the offender has been apprehended, there is deferral [to a rehabilitative programme]”.
This approach, she revealed, was influenced by the understanding that “exposure to other criminals could also be a ‘learning’ experience for young people.”
She explained that “if you put them in jail with hard core criminals, they are subject to violence. They will probably hear all sorts of stories and if they do not have a good family or community surrounding, what may well happen is that this correction service.becomes a school of crime.”
Mrs. Valle pointed out that “Restorative Justice is not something that replaces the justice system that is in place in your country. It is something that is complementary to the justice system.”
Emphasising that the key to successful restorative justice was for offenders to acknowledge their wrongs, Mrs. Valle noted, “once you accept this responsibility then together, with your peers, with community, with the justice system, you are capable of finding a way to make amends”.
Noting the distinction between the traditional retributive justice system and restorative justice, she stated, “In a typical justice system, the question that is asked is, did a crime occur? While in restorative justice, the first questions are who has been harmed? What are the needs of the victim and whose responsibility is it to repair the damage that has been done?”
Noting that restorative justice in Canada had its foundations in the customs of the aboriginal community, Mrs. Valle, explained that usually “when some harm had been done, the person who had committed the offence, as well as the victim would meet with elders and one would have the opportunity to explain his/her actions and the other would have the opportunity to state his/her feelings”.
Continuing, she noted that this strategy facilitated mediation and aided the healing process and “with the support of the community the offender would be made to make amends to the person who was offended”.
She said that if restorative justice was to succeed in Jamaica, “the key thing here is start small, start slowly, build on successes, demonstrate that a programme like this can be successful, and once you’ve built that foundation you can add to that progressively.”
Acknowledging that, culturally it may be difficult for Jamaicans to accept a restorative justice approach to some heinous crimes, Mrs. Valle recommended a gradual integration into the system, adding that when dealing with people’s emotions and values, “you cannot shock them, because you’re going to have a backlash”.
The concept of restorative justice is being interwoven into the country’s criminal justice system and is primarily geared toward making restitution to all parties affected by crime, including the victim, the community, and even the offender.