JIS News

The two-day International Conference on Restorative Justice got underway yesterday (Feb.7) at the Northern Caribbean University’s (NCU) campus in Mandeville, with a massive turnout of participants from law enforcement, the church community, children services and the social work system.
Held under the theme: ‘Restorative Justice: Toward Nation Building and Governance’, the international conference is organized by the NCU’s Department of Behavioural Sciences in collaboration with the Ministries of Justice and National Security, the Dispute Resolution Foundation and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).
Chair of the Department of Behavioural Sciences of NCU, Dr. Grace Kelly, told JIS News that the purpose of the conference “is to educate our public about the concepts of restorative justice, to sensitize a greater number of persons about these processes, and to illicit support from the general population to carry out the mandate of restorative justice”.
Stakeholders in the process are the JCF, Children Services Division, Jamaica Association of Guidance Counsellors in Education, National Social Work Association, mental health units, Ministry of Health, Victim Support Unit, the church community, and students.
The conference will include plenary sessions on the topics: ‘Restorative Practices: Implications for Building a Healthy Society’ with facilitator Ted Wachtel, President and Founder of the International Institute for Restorative Practices; ‘The Role of the Government in the Restorative Process’ with facilitator Carol Palmer; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice; while personnel from the Victims Support Unit will lead the session on ‘Restorative Practices: Implications for All Stakeholders’.
According to Dr. Kelly, the conference “is just the tip of the iceberg. We will be having more conferences . more workshops and training seminars and various institutions will be offering the course”.
She informed that the NCU was seeking to institute an academic programme on restorative practice in collaboration with the International Institute for Restorative Practices in the United States.
In his presentation entitled ‘Restorative Justice: A Lost Treasure’ former Assistant Commissioner in the Canadian Correctional Service, Dr. Pierre Allard, challenged pastors to demonstrate that biblical justice was restorative justice.
“The day that the churches are going to re-discover biblical justice as restorative justice, you are going to transform your communities in such . deep ways it’s going to be wonderful,” he said.
He further urged Jamaicans to embrace restorative justice, “and face up to the challenges of restorative justice so that you will be a forgiving society”.
“I see signs of hope when I see your Governor General [declaring] this week as Restorative Justice Week in Jamaica, and it’s going to go on . every year,” he added.
Meanwhile, student at NCU, Patricia Carty-Cole, said that the concept of restorative justice should be instituted in the society, as it would provide solutions to many social problems. “The main focus of restorative justice is forgiveness, and I think it is a great way to solve our issues,” she stated.
Another student, Shamoy Hojare, noted that the conference was very effective, as it would help the participants “to effectively work together to help persons, who have been convicted or committed criminal offences, to help us to bring them back into communities and restore them as moral individuals”.
The country has been observing ’21 Days of National Grieving, Healing and Restoration’ from January 19 to February 8, and National Restorative Justice Week during the first week of February.