Parade Gardens urged to embrace restorative justice
Residents of Parade Gardens in Kingston Central are looking forward to restoring a long-lasting peace in their community with several social-development partners lined up to execute the ‘clear, hold, build’ ethos of the zone of special operations (ZOSO) launched there last month.
Key partners in the process, the National Restorative Justice Programme in the Ministry of Justice is exposing them to alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to quash minor squabbles and settle conflicts referred from the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court.
“We have noticed from last year that we have been getting a number of court referrals for matters that involved residents from the Parade Gardens community. Some of these matters ranged from unlawful wounding, assault occasioning bodily harm, and conflicts with community members.
“We decided to come into the community of Parade Gardens to see how best we are able to offer some support in conflict resolution,” Tricia Williams, restorative justice officer for Denham Town, told The Gleaner yesterday during a sensitisation session in Parade Gardens.
While a justice centre has not yet been established in the community, Williams said that they saw it fit to make the services available within the space.
Last year, 12 minor disputes cases involving persons from the area were resolved through restorative justice after being referred from the court, Williams said.
“A number of these cases were located in the area of the Gold Street Police Station, and we have had successful resolutions with those matters. The persons were willing to resolve it as a lot of them are family members,” she said. “We get minor disputes, a number of unlawful woundings, assaults occasioning bodily harm, malicious destruction of property, those kinds of offences.”
People’s National Party caretaker for Kingston Central, Imani Duncan-Price, praised the initiative as a much-needed intervention in a community stricken by trauma and pain and called for more consistent social interventions across the constituency.
“People don’t see the scars mentally, the scars emotionally, the scars when the communities are labelled a particular way and they can’t get a job. We need more people coming to the communities because they can’t leave in the same way. They can’t go across a boundary just down the road. So by coming on a regular basis, you establish trust and consistency,” said Duncan-Price.
The former senator, who has been vocal in calling for the intervention of the security forces to stem the wave of murders that have gripped the constituency for the past two years, asked that the neighbouring communities of Spoilers, Mid-Town, and Rae Town be included in the social programmes.
“It’s not just Parade Gardens because the violence that is driving the core of what is in Parade Gardens, unfortunately, infiltrates many communities across the very small constituency. There is also a request from St Michael’s Primary for the teachers to get counselling because they are so traumatised with the children’s stories and having to absorb all of the pain that the children come with that they themselves need support,” she said.
Williams, in the meantime, appealed to residents to take advantage of the programme as it is free of cost and allows participating offenders not to have their offences placed on their record.
“If you go to the courts, and the judge sends you to do mediation, you pay for the service of mediation, but restorative justice is free,” she said.