PMI Working with Ex-offenders to ‘Interrupt’ Violence in St. Catherine

Special Features

In the heart of the old capital, Spanish Town, two former death row inmates, a social worker and approximately 25 other persons convene a meeting behind closed doors.

As they do every Friday morning, the men and women, trained by the Peace Management Initiative (PMI) as violence interrupters, are knocking heads to come up with measures to stem the violence in sections of St Catherine and maintain peace.

The Violence Interrupter (VI) programme, which was launched last year, uses a model similar to that of Cure Violence- a violence interruption programme in the United States that has been credited with much success by multiple evaluators.

Under the PMI’s initiative, rehabilitated criminal offenders like Dave Sewell, are trained to anticipate where violence may occur and intervene before it erupts.

Developing relationships with gang members and knowing the ins and outs of various communities come with the job.

“It is a dangerous job, but somebody has to do it.”

“I have to live in the community, and if gunshot a fire it going to affect me and my family,” says Sewell, who spent nearly half his life locked up at the St. Catherine Adult Correctional Centre.

Reduction in Homicide

Executive Director of the Peace Management initiative, Damian Hutchinson, says since the programme was launched in St. Catherine North in June last year, it has seen much success.

“The St. Catherine North Police Division was identified as one of the problem police divisions across the island last year. We have seen a reduction, from January to April, in the homicide

rate in St Catherine North as compared to the previous years and we believe this is partly due to the work of the Initiative,” Hutchinson says.

He tells JIS that a similar programme was implemented in St James last year and that plans are in the pipeline to strengthen it.

“We have been doing this a little bit longer than the one in west (St. James) and one of the things we are working on now is (having) the team from PMI east (Kinston and St. Andrew) going down to support the work of PMI west as well.”

“We continue to press ahead and refine the programme as we go along. All this is in collaboration with the Ministry of National Security,” he said.

The Peace Management Initiative was established in 2002 as an alternative approach to the use of force, and to reduce violence in communities across Jamaica.

One of the National Development Goals of Vision 2030 Jamaica is to ensure that the Jamaican society is secure, cohesive and just. The goal establishes, among other things, the importance of a

society that is safe, and respects the rights of all.

Vision 2030 Jamaica is a strategic road map to guide the country to achieve its goals of sustainable development and prosperity by 2030.

– Nedburn Thaffe

JIS Social