Security and Justice Programme Helping to Bring Peace To Communities

One of the most innovative and integrated projects being implemented in Jamaica to deal with the country’s crime and security issues is the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP).
Administered by the Ministry of National Security, the programme, since its inception 6 years ago, has made significant strides in transforming the social and economic well-being of residents in a number of inner-city communities.
Programme Manager, Simeon Robinson, tells JIS News that the initiative was established in 2001 in response to the escalation of crime and violence in the society.
“A group of concerned persons having watched this trend, thought that the Government needed to devise a way quite apart from the crime management that is being conducted through the security forces,” explains Mr. Robinson.
“The government needed to institute a very focused programme of intervention at the level of the communities, and at the level of the institutions of government that deals with the criminal justice system,” he notes.
According to the Programme Manager, the CSJP has three main objectives, which are, to prevent and reduce crime and violence; strengthen the country’s crime management capabilities; and improve the delivery of the judicial services.
“In terms of the judicial systems, every day we hear people crying ‘we want justice’, it is indicative of the views of many of the citizens that there are aspects of the justice system that is not working for them. This is recognized and the programme is therefore seeking to see how best to address it so that this perception would be changed,” informs Mr. Robinson.
He adds that “there are interventions imbedded within the programme that is seeking to address this very specific issue where the departments, and the agencies, within the criminal justice system would be better able to deliver on their mandate.”
In terms of the crime management capabilities, he says, “we thought that there were certain weaknesses within the existing arrangements”.
“For instance the human resource capability could have been improved or needed some amount of improvements. The technology that would have been available to them could have been improved to help both in terms of the crime management and crime prevention arrangements,” he continues.
The Programme, which is funded by the Government and the Inter-American Development Bank at a cost of $20 million, has five main components, one of which is the creation of a national Crime and Violence Prevention Strategy. Mr. Robinson says that the Strategy is supposed to outline a road map of government actions for the way forward.
“The Plan is currently being worked on and more recently the government has signed off on a National Security Strategy, which was given the nod by Cabinet and it is now in the Green Paper stage. There are arrangements currently on the way to refine the policy, to address the issue of public consultation and public dissemination of information, all with the view to putting it into implementation,” he discloses.
The second component of the CSJP includes the capacity building of the criminal justice system, while the third component looks at the strengthening of departments within the justice system, such as the Correctional Services, the family courts, the Police Public Complaints Authority, and the victim support system. Under the fourth component, Mr. Robinson outlines, “We have completed the training of the victim support unit staff to improve on their capability to investigate crimes. We have provided computer equipment, and office equipment to raise their capacity to handle the cases that come before them. In fact we are providing them with five staff (members) to strengthen their capacity to handle the number of cases that are coming up before them”.
He adds that the fifth component of the CSJP has to with the community. Of the fifteen communities currently targeted, seven received Peace Awards at a recent awards banquet, which was jointly hosted by the CSJP and Community Security Initiative (CSI). The awards were given based on noticeable and sustained reductions in major crimes in the communities since the inception of the CSJP. The communities awarded were Fletchers Land, Greater Allman Town, Barbican/Grants Pen, Kencot, Top Range (Mountain View), Rose Town (Trench Town), and Ambrook Lane in Cassia Park.
Mr. Robinson is convinced that the creation of the CSJP has made a difference in the fight against crime and violence. “We have seen this and by the testimony of persons who have been benefiting from the programme. We have whole families who have attended parenting education and have attested to the fact that the family itself was drifting apart and the kids were tending towards an outcome that was undesirable,” says Mr. Robinson.
He adds that, “Since they have been benefiting from the programme the unity in the family has been rebuilt very strongly. The family is now doing things together. the love that was always there has found new meaning”.
Citing one of the Programme’s success stories, Mr. Robinson notes that, “in January we heard from a lady in Kencot who attended the CXC classes in English and she got a distinction. She is now doing Mathematics and is desirous of going to university.” He also points out that persons have also benefited from the drama aspect of the CSJP. “We have seen where through drama residents of some very difficult communities as in Hanna Town have become more aware of the issue of domestic violence and have renounced this and have taken very proactive steps to stamp it out not only from within their own homes, but by protecting other members of the communities from this particular abuse,” he informs.
Mr. Robinson adds that, “since we have been operating in the communities this ‘border’ issue is not longer a major issue. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that everything is absolutely okay, but we are seeing people moving and interacting in ways in which they otherwise wouldn’t have done.”
Mr. Robinson expresses the hope that the CSJP will be continued after 2008. “There are communities that are requesting that we include them, both inside and outside of the Kingston Metropolitan Area, because bear in mind that in this phase, the 15 communities in which we work are in Kingston and St. Andrew.” He indicates that it is possible that the programme could be extended beyond 2008, which is the scheduled year for conclusion. “I think the Government is contemplating how this can be done,” Mr. Robinson says.

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