JIS News

Public Relations Officer with the Ministry of Justice, Michael Cohen, is urging Jamaicans to embrace the principles of restorative justice, as a significant step towards healing the nation, and reducing the high crime rate.
Speaking with JIS News, at a restorative justice community consultation held recently at the St. Gabriel’s Anglican Church Hall in May Pen, Clarendon, Mr. Cohen stated that the culture of retributive justice, which is so deeply entrenched in the Jamaican society, has done tremendous harm, evident in the spiraling levels of crime. He said the time has come to put in place, more effective methods to deal with differences.
“Restorative Justice is putting right what is wrong. It is essentially about relationships. It shows that crime is not just an offence against the state, it shows that persons have been affected, and very often, even the person’s family and the wider community,” Mr. Cohen pointed out.
“We are saying the offender has to take account for his actions, for the wrong done, and the victim must be prepared overtime, to offer forgiveness to the offender. The offender, in turn, must display his sincere regret for the harm done, and following that interchange then you should have a sustained harmonious relationship,” he noted further.
Mr. Cohen said restorative justice has helped to reduce the crime rate in other Commonwealth countries such as Canada and New Zealand, and should prove to be just as effective in Jamaica, once the relevant legislation is passed.
“Restorative justice has proven to reduce crime in those countries in which it has been successful and has helped with repeat offences as well. You see, the offender can go to prison, but restorative justice also allows for him to come to his senses, and extend the olive branch to the victim and his family,” he pointed out.
While admitting that restorative justice is no quick fix to the current crime problem, Mr. Cohen said it is one medium through which people will be able to arrive at more amicable solutions to the issues which confront them in their interpersonal relations, allowing both the victim and the offender to find closure, and start the healing process.
The islandwide consultations are to garner feedback on restorative justice from the Jamaican population, which will be used to inform a policy draft to be presented to the Houses of Parliament.
The Ministry of Justice is working closely with the Disputes Resolution Foundation, along with other relevant bodies to educate the public, while garnering the relevant information.

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