More than 200 students participated in a presentation on Restorative Justice, yesterday (January 23), at the Holy Trinity High School in Kingston. The event was staged as part of the initiative by the Ministry of Justice to educate students about the principles of restorative justice.
The Ministry is employing a strategy of zoning high schools, which are in close proximity to each other, and exposing students to the principle which is being formally integrated into Jamaica’s justice system. Acting Corporate Planner in the Ministry of Justice, Cheryl Bonnick-Forrest, introduced the students to the tenets of restorative justice, highlighting that crime was injurious to the victims as well as their communities.
Citing the trials of genocide offenders in Rwanda, Africa, after the conflict between the Hutus and the Tutsis some years ago, Mrs. Bonnick-Forrest, illustrated how catering to the needs of all parties in the circle of crime – the offender, the victim and the community – could bring about healing. The students were given the opportunity to view the film, Hotel Rwanda, which related the atrocities of the genocide of the Tutsis by the Hutus in Rwanda in 1994.
Guest Presenter, Jorge Insausti, Deputy Chief of Mission of Argentina, listed the elements of the traditional justice system as “the law, the crime, and the punishment”. “The entire world is very much concerned about crime, and people of goodwill are trying to do their best to have a better world for everybody,” Mr. Insausti noted. He identified restorative justice as one measure that is used in his homeland, Argentina, and other countries to respond to crime. At the end of the presentation, the participants were able to give their views on justice in Jamaica. One participant, Kimberly Brown, Secretary/Treasurer of the Students’ Council at St. George’s College, told JIS News that she thought that restorative justice “would really help Jamaica a lot”.
However, she said “the biggest problem would be to have people confess to their crimes”. She suggested that victims and offenders should be allowed to interface with each other, although this would be difficult for the victims. Simone McFarlane, Researcher in the Justice Education Unit in the Ministry, told JIS News that the staging of these zonal presentations “will be an on-going project”. “We plan to take this across the schools in the Corporate Area, and hopefully to schools outside of the Corporate Area,” she said. The students hailed from Alpha Academy, Clan Carthy High School, St. George’s College, Kingston College and Holy Trinity High School.