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The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) expects that four violence-prone communities, which are to be used as pilots for the Restorative and Community Justice initiative this year, will be better and safer at the end of the 24-month period.
The four communities selected are Granville, St. James; May Pen, Clarendon; Spanish Town, St. Catherine; and Tower Hill, in the Corporate Area. The pilots in Tower Hill and Granville are expected to be launched next week while Jamaica celebrates Restorative Justice Week. The others will follow on dates to be announced.
“We expect that the communities are going to become more involved in conflict resolution, that we will have less cases going to the courts, we expect a reduction in crime and violence and that communities are going to bond more”, according to Coordinator of Justice Reform in the Ministry, Beverley Little.
“We are looking at 24 months [for the pilot projects]. During that time, we intend to put in place monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to evaluate how the projects are going. We intend to replicate what is replicable in ten other communities over the next five years,” she added.
Miss Little, who was speaking on Wednesday (January 27) at a Think Tank session at the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) in Kingston said, however, that details of the process are still being worked out.
“I think one of the difficulties we have had is that we see communities that are disintegrating and one of the objectives of the restorative and community justice exercise is to build back communities, and give people that sense of oneness. We are hoping this will happen over the next 24 months at least.we want to see them advancing towards bonding and caring more about each other, talking to each other and the reduction in crime and violence,” she explained.
Parish Network Manager at the Dispute Resolution Foundation (DRF), Paul Hines, explained that the Foundation is focused on getting grounded in these communities.
“The whole thrust of the DRF is to support the policy initiative of the MoJ, ensure that we get grounded into every community through our service points across the island, [with] this readily understood approach that says we can restore relationships where harm is done as a result of conflict or, worse, violence,” he stated.
He said that the thrust of the MoJ is to get restorative and community justice practises embedded from the community level up, and it needs to have some level of urgency to it.
Restorative Justice Week which, is celebrated from January 31 to February 6, is focused on a number of goals, including empowering and mobilizing communities to support RCJ practises.
The goals of Restorative Justice Week this year are to educate the public and increase awareness of restorative and community justice philosophy, processes and practises; to advance the process of empowering communities, as they engage in the delivery of justice; and to advance the mobilization of communities towards embracing restorative and community justice practises.
The Week is being celebrated under the theme “Restorative and Community Justice: Making Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business”.
Restorative Justice is a process in which victims and community members are involved in mediation, trial and even sentencing of offenders. The objective is to change the attitudes, behaviour and perception of the residents, while easing the burden on the courts.