JIS News

Residents of Clarendon have expressed support for the concept of restorative justice, as a possible solution to the high crime rate plaguing the country.
At a public consultation on the matter held recently in May Pen, Clarendon, Marjorie Jackson, who has lived in the parish all her life, said that restorative justice offers a ray of hope for those persons who are concerned about the increasing incidence of crime.
“I have lived in Clarendon all my life. This is the only place I know as home. It is very distressing to think that criminals now have the rest of us under siege. It breaks my heart each day when every minute I hear Clarendon on the news, because of crime. We want to feel safe once more. I believe restorative justice will help to cut back on the crime rate. We need a change. We are afraid to sleep at nights because you don’t know when they are going to break in on you. It’s like you just go through each day, praying that you won’t be the next victim. I believe strongly that restorative justice can work. As Jamaicans, we need to give it a try,” she stated.
“The process of restorative justice is not entirely new to myself. Not only do I believe it can work but I believe it will work,” said one male resident. “It depends a lot on the community, the offender, the victim, all the stakeholders involved, and not just the Government, the police or the pastor. It depends on everyone. A lot of persons fail to realise that the problem we are facing is because we refuse, we are afraid of getting involved, and the more we are afraid of getting involved is the more we get involved, because it is the more we become victims,” he remarked.
A female resident cautioned that even as the medium is created for the offender and victim to reach out to each other, so the wrongs can be made right, and closure arrived at, every effort should be made to ensure the safety of the persons involved.
Restorative justice, as opposed to retributive justice, emphasises repairing the harm caused by criminal behaviour. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that include all stakeholders. The Government is looking to introduce the concept as part of the criminal justice system and is staging a series of consultations across the island, to garner the public’s views on the matter. The consultations will inform a draft policy document to be presented to Cabinet shortly.
Public Relations Officer with the Ministry of Justice, Michael Cohen, pointed out that for restorative justice to be effective, the offender must accept responsibility for the hurt he/she has caused, while the victim, overtime, can come to that place where he/she is able to offer forgiveness to the offender. The offender in turn must display sincere regret for the harm done, and following that interchange, a sustained harmonious relationship should be established.
Meanwhile, Sharon Palmer of the Disputes Resolution Foundation, one of the partners in the consultations, stated that the series of discussions have allowed the relevant authorities to hear from citizens what they believe a restorative justice framework should look like, what a restorative justice policy should look like, and indeed, what justice should look like in Jamaica.
“Persons are very open and honest in their opinions, and I believe that after all the consultations are through, we should have a pretty good idea of the way forward, as it relates to the implementation of restorative justice in Jamaica. Persons have been saying that once we get over the hurdles, then we should be on our way to making this work. I believe that once Jamaicans understand the value of restorative justice, the principles, I believe they will become involved in the process and make it work,” she asserted.
She further stated that once persons have been exposed to the principles of restorative justice, they become aware of the fact that both victim and offender need to have their stories heard, both need to come to terms with their feelings, and both need the help of the wider community in putting closure to the situation.

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