JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The workshops will expose 3,000 rank and file police officers to the guiding principles of Restorative Justice.
  • These workshops are in keeping with the National Restorative Justice Policy mandate.
  • Police Officers are the final referral agents to be trained by the Ministry.

The Restorative and Child Justice Unit, in the Ministry of Justice, has designed a series of workshops aimed at exposing 3,000 rank and file police officers to the guiding principles of Restorative Justice (RJ), by March 2014.

These workshops are in keeping with the National Restorative Justice Policy mandate, which speaks to capacity building, enhancing development and support for protocols and case management systems in the RJ process, in which the officers play a vital role. To date, the unit has trained over 200 Police Officers from Area 3.

Director of Restorative and Child Justice Reform in the Ministry, Ruth Carey, told JIS News that there are five referral points where cases may be referred to the RJ programme – Community level; Clerk of Court (post-charge/pre-trial); Court (post-charge/pre-trial); Court (post-conviction/pre-sentence); and the Corrections level (post-sentence).

“Referral agents are pivotal in the Restorative Justice process and the Jamaica Constabulary Force plays a critical role at the second referral point of the Restorative Justice Referral Process, as they make recommendations to the Clerk of Court concerning minor offences. We look forward to working with them as the Ministry seeks to improve the justice system,” she said.

Ms. Carey explained that at the workshops, the officers are exposed to the tenets of Restorative Justice, how to identify cases that may be recommended to the Clerk of Court, the difference between mediation and RJ, the Case Management System and how to complete the eligibility criteria from which they use to recommend cases to the Clerk of Court.

Police Officers are the final referral agents to be trained by the Ministry, as other key stakeholders referring cases, such as Probation Officers, Prosecutors, and Resident Magistrates, have been trained and sensitized.

“RJ is a culture shift for Jamaica and there are certain guiding principles for restorative justice. These include respect, forgiveness, accountability and empowerment of the offender, the victim and community, to name a few. Once people buy into the RJ programme, they will have a sense of ownership which will ultimately lead them to feel empowered to sustain a safer and peaceful community.   If these principles are used by officers it will help to build trust in communities, and it is also in line with the community policing concept,” Ms. Carey explained.

She told JIS News that feedback from the Police Officers has been positive and that some officers have recommended that a comprehensive RJ course be developed for them.

“They are happy for the opportunity to learn about RJ and recognize its importance in the work that they do at the community level in building relationships as well as addressing conflicts. They can only make recommendations at this time, not direct referrals though, but we hope to get there one day,” Ms. Carey said.

The Director informed that cases such as assault, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, simple larceny, larceny of a dwelling place, larceny from the person, conversion, noise abatement, malicious injury to property below $50,000 and any other minor offences may be deemed appropriate for RJ by a Resident Magistrate or Judge.

“The RJ programme is currently taking cases from the community level, which means that if you are in a community and you are aware of persons in a dispute, you can refer that case and we try to repair the relationship and come to an agreement that suits all parties involved,” she said.

RJ is an initiative aimed at reducing case backlog, and recidivism, strengthen communities and increase public confidence in the justice system.  “There are a number of cases that do not need to go court, they can easily be handled in the RJ process,” Ms. Carey explained.

The RJ has been piloted in 11 communities and there are seven centres across the island in Savanna-la-Mar, May Pen, Granville, Spanish Town, Tower Hill, August Town, and Trench Town.