Osbourne Bailey, senior coordinator of the Victim Support Unit of the Ministry of Justice, is urging more Jamaicans to volunteer with the organisation.
Asking members at the Rotary Club of Kingston's weekly luncheon on Thursday what they could do to contribute to justice in Jamaica, he gave them a choice.
"We can all go and block the road. It's a viable option and it's been going on long in this country," he said. But he suggested they instead advocate for swift legislative change in how we treat victims, and lobby for an increase in victim-support services. He felt having exposed organisations like Rotary to the cause, it was now up to those organisations to do more.
"What we would certainly like them to do is to recognise that there is a place for them to assist in providing this healing and justice for crime victims by volunteering," he said. He noted that whatever industry persons were in, they could interface with the justice process and, where necessary, be trained to provide assistance.
"I am sure that we can benefit from just about anybody who is able and willing," he said. "It's a worthy cause to be a part of the justice process by providing assistance to victims of crime." The Victim Support Unit is mandated to coordinate support for victims of any crime, even political victimisation. Bailey said the unit was also tasked to improve people's access to justice and strengthen public confidence in justice system and process. He acknowledged it was a challenging task.
"We have a backlog of over 400,000 cases in court," he said. "We have a conviction rate of about five per cent. That means that 95 per cent of the people who come through the traditional system do not get what we call justice." Bailey said the unit investigates 5,000 new cases per year, simultaneously doing another 5,000 follow-ups. But he cited 2010, a year with 11,000 major crimes cases.
"If we only see 5,000 new ones annually, and there are 11,000 new ones, you realise how inadequate the services are to provide help for this country," he said. He also called for more community involvement as "we believe that victim support is best done in partnerships with communities".
He noted the unit had an office in every parish, with 35 technical staff trained in social work or psychology. Despite the constraints, he assured the service is free, and was strictly confidential.