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Commissioner of Police, Lucius Thomas, has called for the adoption of the principles of restorative justice in the Jamaican criminal justice system, as a peaceful approach to solving crime and violence.
Commissioner Thomas, who was speaking today (Oct. 20) at a Jamaica Constabulary Force-organized mediation conference at the Medallion Hall Hotel on Hope Road, explained that restorative justice was a process whereby the offender acknowledged the harm that he/she has caused to a victim, and repays the debt to the victim.
“The current justice system emphasises punishment and retribution. Restorative justice is fundamentally different from retributive justice in that it brings together the offender and victim, and seeks to establish ways and means whereby the offender can rehabilitate himself or herself in a manner, which is mutual beneficially to both parties,” he elaborated. Pointing to the benefits of this approach, he noted that the adoption of the restorative justice model could impact on the way in which the society dealt with juveniles within the criminal justice system.
“Depending on the crime, instead of sending them to Rio Cobre and Tredegar Park juvenile correction centres, thereby creating a disconnect with families and society, they can repay their debt to society directly. This would ease the pressure of finding space within the (correctional) system for juveniles and it is more humane,” he argued. Commissioner Thomas acknowledged that while the model might not be applicable in all criminal cases, it could be used in cases of wounding, assault or larceny.
“The society in which we live and work has changed in such a fundamental way, that we have to develop new strategies in dealing with the ever-present danger of crime. I would like to see the day after a praedial thief is caught that his sentence would be to work for the farmer from whom he stole,” he said.
The Police Commissioner noted further, that restorative justice would provide some rehabilitation for offenders. “There are (criminals), who are repentant and want to right the wrong that they have committed. The system must accommodate them by offering them viable alternatives for a change of lifestyle,” he said.
“Restorative Justice, is justice that puts energy into the future, not into what is past. It focuses on what needs to be healed, what needs to be repaid, what needs to be learnt in the way of crime. It looks on what needs to be strengthened, if such things are not to happen again. It is a revolutionary concept, which is sweeping across the criminal justice systems of Europe and North America,” the Commissioner pointed out.