JIS News

Northern Caribbean University (NCU) hosted a symposium on Restorative Justice on Wednesday (February 3) on the university’s campus, Mandeville, Manchester.
Held under the theme: Restorative and Community Justice: Making Jamaica the Place of Choice to Live, Work, Raise Families and do Business”, it sought to showcase how Restorative Justice can influence conflict resolution in communities and the spin-off benefits to the society.
Using the Albion Primary School Restorative Justice Initiative as a model, school administrators, teachers, parents, community members and students were encouraged to use a proactive approach to building a school community, based on cooperation, mutual understanding and respect.
Resident Magistrate for Manchester, Oswald Burchenson, said of the symposium that it was a “well needed and extremely timely discussion” on Restorative Justice.
He said that despite what has been happening in the criminal justice system, where a picture of gloom, hopelessness and despair could be easily painted, there were rays of light.
One of these rays of light was the pioneering role the Community Counselling and Restorative Justice Centre has been playing for the past six years in the Mandeville community, he noted.
He pointed out that the Centre has been actively working within the Mandeville community in three distinct areas: intervention; Restorative Justice; and preventative education.
“These beacons of light become more critical in our society for two simple reasons. The first is because of the sad reality that Jamaicans continue to lose faith in their criminal justice system, and the second is the rising rates of violent crimes and prison over population,” he remarked.
Restorative Justice is a movement promoting humane, transformative and cost effective alternatives to the current punitive, failed and costly system of mass incarceration, he added.
He said that Restorative Justice involves three primary stakeholders that is, victims, offenders and their communities
“The three primary stakeholders in restorative justice are victims, offenders and their communities of care whose needs are respectively getting reparation, taking responsibility and achieving reconciliation,” he said.
He said that, as the interest in and understanding of Restorative Justice grows, it will only yield more opportunities.
“We need to find ways of breaking the vicious cycle of repetition of offending, punishment release, re-offending and punishment again. Restorative justice cannot be the sole answer to this problem, but can assist,” he said.
“A criminal justice system that merely doles out punishment to offenders and sidelines victims, does not address the emotional or relational needs of those who have been affected by crime,” he stated.