JIS News

For 21 days in the New Year, the Ministry of Justice will focus the nation’s attention on integrating restorative justice into the criminal justice system, through the staging of an international conference from January 19 to February 8.
The Ministry will partner with the Department of Behavioural Science at the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) to stage the conference under the theme: ‘Restorative Justice: Toward Nation Building and Governance’.
Playing lead roles will be international practitioners of restorative justice, such as Dr. John Bailie and Ted Wachtel of the International Institute of Restorative Justice.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Carol Palmer, who made the announcement at a recent press conference, said that the objectives of the 21-day event was to help to build the capacity of the nation to implement restorative justice programmes in a more concrete way and also to “assist our citizens who are in pain, because of the various hurts they have experienced, to go through some healing, and to move on”.
Mrs. Palmer pointed out that the event would not be the first move to consolidate restorative justice in Jamaica, pointing to foregone training and public education initiatives on the issue. However, it was being undertaken because of the recognition that “there is still not sufficient capacity in our people to take the process and the philosophy forward,” the Permanent Secretary said.
Chair of the Department of Behavioural Science at NCU, Dr. Grace Kelly, explained that the conference would achieve its objectives through the staging of training seminars, which would target “schools and the education system; children families, and community systems; victims and the justice system; offenders and the security system; guidance counsellors, social workers and other service providers; the church community and corporate Jamaica”.
According to Dr. Kelly, the 21 days would represent a period of national grieving and healing, involving identifying and taking steps to repair harm. This, she informed, would be done through a national public education thrust on the grieving process, using a variety of presentations, seminars, workshops, interviews, and newspaper articles through various media.
As a part of the conference agenda, a series of church services will be held on January 20, 21, 27 and 28, in the selected areas of Montego Bay, May Pen, Portland and Spanish Town, respectively. The services will culminate with a national atonement service in Kingston on February 3.
Mrs. Palmer, who elaborated on the atonement service, pointed out that it would be “the beginning of a process of forgiveness and healing for the Jamaican society, creating an attitude where we stop seeking for revenge and minimize if not eliminate reprisals in our society. It will not necessarily be a cure all . but if a church service reaches one citizen, it is a good purpose that has been served”.
Organisations that have endorsed the event and will be lending their support through participation are the Dispute Resolution Foundation, the Justice Training Institute, the Mandeville Counselling and Restorative Justice Centre, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), among other organisations.
In her presentation at the press conference, Executive Director of the Dispute Resolution Foundation, Donna Parchment said, “there are many deep-seated harms in Jamaica”, and the conference “provides an opportunity for us to work with young people in the urban, underserved communities all across Jamaica, particularly in certain urban centres that are going to be targeted”.
Appealing to the corporate and donor communities to come on board as sponsors, Miss Parchment added that the conference also offered an “opportunity to pull many stakeholders. to make commitments to act in a way that moves Jamaica from where she is now, to where we all want her to be”.
Restorative justice is in contrast to the retributive system of justice, which focuses on penalizing offenders. It facilitates a more participatory approach to the delivery of justice, catering to the needs of the victims and perpetrators of crime and the affected community, to foster healing and reconciliation of all parties.
The concept has been applied in Mandeville through the Mandeville Counselling and Restorative Justice Centre, which was established through an alliance of the NCU, the Mandeville Resident Magistrate Court, the JCF and the Victim Support Unit.
The establishment of the centre in Mandeville has helped in the rehabilitation of young persons in particular, who have been before the courts.