JIS News

In the midst of cries for the enforcement of capital punishment, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Carol Palmer, is appealing to Jamaicans to embrace the concept of restorative justice.
Mrs. Palmer, who was speaking about the thrust to integrate restorative justice into Jamaica’s criminal justice system, at the weekly luncheon meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Kingston held yesterday (March 21) at the Hilton Kingston hotel, stressed that restorative justice would serve to complement rather than replace conventional justice.
Explaining, she said, “It is a way of viewing justice that puts emphasis on respecting the dignity of each and every one (and), repairing harm caused by conflict, violence or crime.”
Noting that restorative justice did not excuse the offender from the consequence of a crime, Mrs. Palmer said, “It provides for the person to be held accountable and to be made responsible for their action.”
In response to the criticism that restorative justice principles were too soft to be applied to serious crimes, the Permanent Secretary asserted that, “in addition to proceeding with the retributive justice process, it is helpful to do the restorative, especially when you look at the issues of victims.”
Restorative Justice is a values-based concept that is highly concerned with repairing the harm done to victims. It diverges from the traditional mode of operation, in which the victim only has a voice when serving as a witness, to a situation, where he/she can face the offender and describe the pain, which was inflicted.
Stating that the concept has been working in the Flanker’s community in St. James, she informed that the introduction of mediation to the formerly volatile community has helped to reduce the high levels of violence for which it was known. This was made possible, as many citizens, through the Social Conflict and Legal Reform Project, have been taught conflict management skills.
In addition to similar interventions in other communities, Mrs. Palmer indicated that work was being done to establish programmes of diversion for youth.
She pointed out, that rather than tossing every young person, who has committed an offence into a correctional facility, and condemning them to a life of crime and recidivism, “we are proposing that there are initiatives that keep them outside of institutions but also make them take responsibility for their actions”.
Rejecting the prevailing view that Jamaica’s crime problem could only be defeated with draconian strategies, Mrs. Palmer said, “if we are always going to be angry.combative, [and] if we are always seeking to get our pound of flesh, then our country is just going to continue into decadence.”