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JIS News

About 55 “at risk ” teenagers from inner-city communities in Kingston, St. Andrew, St. Catherine and Clarendon, participated in a Restorative Justice Focus Resocialization Workshop, at Morgan’s Harbour Hotel, Port Royal, on Wednesday (February 3).
The exercise formed part of activities marking Restorative and Community Justice Week. It is being observed January 31 to February 6, under the theme, “Making Jamaica the Place of Choice to Live, Work, Raise Families and Do Business”, and is targeting youngsters who are either victims or perpetrators of offences.
Organized by the Victim Support Unit (VSU), Ministry of Justice, the workshop attracted youngsters, aged 13 to 18 years.
Coordinator of the VSU, Nesta Haye, told JIS News that the resocialization workshop was primarily a “therapeutic intervention”, to bring together the victims of crimes such as sexual abuse, inclusive of carnal abuse and incest; robbery; and murder-related incidents, and the perpetrators, to facilitate an “opportunity for healing” between both sides.
She pointed out that the parishes, from which the participants came, were selected on the basis of the extent of violent flare-ups and other illicit activities occurring in communities in these areas, which impacted the youngsters, 35 of whom were girls.
Noting that this is the fourth consecutive year that the event is being staged, Mrs. Haye pointed out that the healing process was intended to be achieved through the implementation of “restorative justice principles”.
“We take a holistic approach to healing and thus, if it means getting outside assistance, we tend to network with other agencies , such as the Ministry of National Security, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education. We also network with private individuals, in order to complete our mission,” she outlined.
Mrs. Haye said the activities were tailored to facilitate individuals being afforded the opportunity to speak on issues, looking at how they feel and focusing on how they can correct the harm that has been done.
“Hopefully, all the persons involved will come to, somewhat, agreeable terms, in terms of how they feel and how they think it should be, in terms of relieving the harm,” she explained.
She said that the objective was to have the young people so empowered, that they go back to their communities and be able to empower those around them, and teach them the coping skills they have learnt.
The day was scheduled to close with a balloon release ceremony, which Mrs. Haye explained was aimed at giving the participants “a chance to write all their negative feelings onto the balloons” and release them, as a means of ridding themselves of the challenges they experienced.
She pointed out that the VSU would be conducting evaluations of the day’s proceedings and doing follow-ups with the youngsters.
“In the past, we have done evaluations and based on that we (determined) whether we needed to do further therapeutic intervention, or we just need to do straight referrals to another agency. We have had three previously, (which went) very well. We have seen changes in behaviour, in terms of the whole cognitive functioning,” she said.
Guest speaker, Coordinator for Justice Reform in the Ministry, Beverley Little, highlighted the Ministry’s concerns about how crime and violence were impacting communities, and pointed out that “legitimate and restorative justice” was being taken to these areas.
“We want you to change that (violent) way of thinking, because it is when you begin to change the way you think that this will, over time, begin to infiltrate the way people behave and our communities will begin to change,” she stressed.