JIS News

The Ministry of Justice will launch its public awareness campaign on restorative justice, with its ‘Restorative Justice Opportunities’ symposium on November 30 from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Girl Guides Association of Jamaica headquarters in Kingston.
The keynote address will be delivered by Executive Director of the Centre for Justice and Reconciliation at Prison Fellowship International, Daniel Van Ness, who oversees an association of over 100 national prison ministries worldwide. These ministries help prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families and also address criminal justice problems.
An internationally renowned supporter and practitioner of restorative justice, Mr. Van Ness has provided consultancy services to several governments on restorative legislation and has conducted training and teaching courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
He will be joined by several local restorative justice practitioners who are expected to highlight the challenges and successes of implementing a reparative approach to crime reduction in their respective communities.
Stemming from recommendations made by the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry in 2001/02, efforts are being made to incorporate the principle of restorative justice into Jamaica’s method of administering justice.
The adoption of this principle will reposition local responses to crime and deviance from an exclusively retributive posture, to one that facilitates healing and restitution for both victim and offender, at the individual and community levels.
Restorative Justice is being successfully practised in a number of Commonwealth states, such as Canada, New Zealand and Australia. It is also gaining a foothold in Latin America and other parts of the world, inclusive of Thailand and China.
Speaking with JIS News, Michael Cohen, Senior Communications Officer at the Ministry of Justice said: “It has been proven that restorative justice can be effective to deal with some kinds of offences in our society”.
The restorative justice philosophy of “righting the wrong of an offender against a person or property”, is already being expressed locally, in the existence of the Drug Court and community service orders Mr. Cohen pointed out.
In order for restorative justice in Jamaica to succeed the active involvement of various sectors of the society is needed. “The Justice Ministry holds the view that there are well-meaning people in the society, so the programme has a fair chance of being successful, and in this, Justices of the Peace and the Church can be instrumental,” Mr. Cohen further noted.
In this respect, he indicated that a number of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and church groups have expressed their interest or commitment to introduce restorative justice initiatives in their respective communities.
The Ministry is therefore seeking to expand its network of stakeholders and to establish restorative justice programmes in several communities across the island over the next two years.