Justice Minister, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding is confident that the Restorative Justice Programme will achieve significant progress and support in Jamaica.
The Justice Minister, who was addressing the 4th International Restorative Justice Conference and Public Lecture at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston on Friday, February 8, said the programme, which is in its infancy, shows great promise.
The Minister said the commitment and enthusiasm that he has seen during the celebration of Restorative Justice Week from February 3 to 9, “indicates that Jamaica really wants Restorative Justice”.
During the week, the Restorative Justice Unit in the Ministry opened three restorative centres in the communities of Trench Town and August Town in Kingston, and Russia in Westmoreland. This brings to seven, the number of centres opened across the island to serve approximately 10 communities.
Restorative justice is a process whereby all the parties with a stake in a particular dispute that has taken place, come together to resolve and deal with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future.
Senator Golding said the practice, “with its emphasis on restoration of relationships and unity and forgiveness and love “is a very relevant and new approach for Jamaica”.
“I see it as really broadening and deepening our access to justice,” he stated.
Noting that the programme is “outside the formal justice system”, he said: “it enables you to start from scratch and you don’t have to battle with entrenched interests to get some progress. You can just engage people, show them the benefits of it and train them and roll it out.”
The Minister informed that the necessary legislative and other mechanisms to allow for the programme to interface with the formal justice system are now being developed.
He expressed the hope that the programme will have an impact on the number of cases brought before the formal system for relatively small matters.
The Government, since February of last year, has been rolling out the Restorative Justice Programme, as an important element in the quest to improve the justice system in Jamaica and ensure access to justice for all citizens.
Among the topics discussed at the conference were: ‘Theory and Philosophy of Restorative Justice’; Contemporary Approach to Crime Fighting; and ‘Differentiating Restorative Justice and Mediation’.