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Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, is endorsing the concept of restorative justice as a peaceful way of settling disputes and building relationships.
He said that the process offers a more positive and constructive approach to restoring ties between victims, offenders, family members and communities, while promoting healing for all concerned.
“It provides an alternative to punitive justice and is a good means of rebuilding and rehabilitating offenders, while at the same time protecting the public,” the Governor-General stated in a speech delivered by Custos of Manchester, Hon. Dr. Gilbert Allen, at yesterday’s (January 31) thanksgiving service to launch Restorative and Community Justice Week at the Mandeville Parish Church.
Bishop of Montego Bay, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Howard Gregory, who delivered the sermon, said that there is a tradition of restorative justice in the Christian faith, citing several biblical examples of people making restitution through dialogue and other peaceful means.
He said that for the principle to be effective and embraced by society, restorative justice must impact the lives of persons in a very personal way. “We must engage others, even the worst of our communities, in the same spirit of fairness and restorative love,” he stated.
Also at the thanksgiving service were Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Dorothy Lightbourne; members of the judiciary, security forces, and the Dispute Resolution Foundation.
Restorative and Community Justice Week is being observed from January 31 to February 6 under the theme: Restorative and Community Justice: Making Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business”.
The week of activities includes panel discussions, while restorative justice practitioners will be visiting schools in four violence-prone communities, where pilot projects are underway. The communities are Granville, St. James; May Pen, Clarendon; Spanish Town, St. Catherine; and Tower Hill in the Corporate Area.
Activities will culminate with a gala concert on February 6 at Emancipation Park in Kingston.
Restorative Justice focuses on healing the harm that wrongdoing causes people and the society on the whole. It 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, by allowing persons involved in the crime or conflict, the opportunity to participate in the resolution process.