Virtual conferences are now a feature of the Ministry of Justice’s Restorative Justice Unit (RJU) offerings, in direct response to minimising potential client exposure to COVID-19.
A Restorative Justice Conference is one of the tools used to address disputes by facilitating a meeting of the victim, offender, and member of the community.
Restorative Justice Coordinator, Andriene Lindsay, told JIS News that the first conference done through a virtual platform was a success and resulted in an agreement.
“We also had training and all the staff has been trained in delivering conferences via virtual platforms. Sensitisations are also being delivered virtually and we have had several of those and that’s going well also. So, we are making strides and the next thing we are going to do is [adjust our] training platform, so it can be delivered virtually instead of face to face,” Ms. Lindsay said.
Restorative Justice is a community-centred initiative with tools designed to be administered in face-to-face settings.
Ms. Lindsay said considering the reality of COVID-19, virtual conferences have proven beneficial.
“Especially for bigger conferences where we might not necessarily have the space to facilitate everyone or where someone is stuck overseas, then we want to ensure that we don’t turn those clients away and we can service them. We would like to move forward to a time when face-to-face interaction can be resumed. But in the meantime, the virtual space and smaller conferences, they are working well for us and for our clients,” she noted.
Meanwhile, the Unit has moved to design material for the education of staff and clients who come in to access restorative justice services.
“Those posters will be going up in the centres, one in the bathroom really illustrating the correct ways to wash your hands, around the wrists, back of the hands and palms. We have another poster talking about ensuring you wear your face mask, social distance, not touching surfaces, not shaking hands, and informing people what we have done in terms of the plastic chairs and pens,” Ms. Lindsay said.
After an agreement has been signed by individuals, part of the health and safety protocols involve the sanitising of pens after use to minimise the risk of spreading the virus.
“So, even when individuals sign the agreements, after each signing we sanitise our pens, wipe them down with sanitiser to ensure again that we are taking all the measures we possibly can to ensure the virus is at a minimum risk of spreading,” Ms. Lindsay explained.
Restorative Justice is a process whereby all the parties with a stake in a particular offence come together to resolve, collectively, the way forward in dealing with the aftermath of an offence.
The process focuses on holding the offender accountable in a more meaningful way by repairing the harm caused by the offence, helping to reintegrate the offender into the community, and helping to achieve a sense of healing for both the victim and community.