Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne, has charged residents of Spanish Town to get behind their Restorative and Community Justice Pilot Project, so that the initiative can have a positive and meaningful impact.
The project was launched at Emancipation Square, Spanish Town, Wednesday (April 28). Restorative Justice provides alternative mechanisms for resolving disputes by bringing the victim, the offender, the community and the state together to work out problems arising from petty crime, anti social behaviour, quarrels and other disagreements within the community.
Its main aim is to repair the harm that wrongdoing causes the victim and community, while ensuring that the offender is rehabilitated and re-integrated into the society.
Senator Lightbourne invited the residents to support and become involved in the process, by “changing the culture of silence and by encouraging (others) to share information, to ensure that offenders are reported to the Restorative and Community Justice Panel.”
Minister of Justice, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne (right); Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Robert Rainford (left); Custos of St. Catherine, Rev Sophia Azan (second from left); and Mayor of Spanish Town, Dr. Andrew Wheatley, applaud the unveiling of a plaque marking the launch of the Spanish Town Restorative and Community Justice Pilot Project, at a ceremony at Emancipation Square in Spanish Town, St. Catherine, Wednesday (April 28).
She also suggested that community members help to identify tasks for offenders, and support their rehabilitation and reintegration; work with the police to prevent and respond to crime; and alert the panel when disputes occur within the community to ensure that they do not escalate.
In an address read by Deputy Mayor of Spanish Town, Councillor Owen Palmer, Member of Parliament for Central St. Catherine, Miss Olivia Grange, said it was fitting that Spanish Town was chosen as a pilot community, given its problems with crime and violence.
Miss Grange, who is also Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, noted that a lot is weighing on the success of the project, and implored residents to “give it a chance”.
Mayor of Spanish Town, Dr. Andrew Wheatley, also welcomed the launch of the programme in the town expressing confidence that it would, in time, have a positive impact on interpersonal relationships among residents.
“This initiative provides the ideal opportunity for us to engage the communities and, in the process, alleviate some of the stress on our court system. It not only saves man hours at the courthouse, but it also reduces the cost and also heals some of the wounds that are the result of these disputes,” he added.
The Spanish Town project is the third of four Restorative and Community Justice pilot projects being launched by the Ministry of Justice. In February, the Ministry launched the Granville, St. James and Tower Hill, St. Andrew, projects. The final launch will be on May 26 in May Pen, Clarendon.
The Project was developed and implemented with the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).