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Restorative justice positively impacting Jamaica's future

Published:Sunday | February 14, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Department of Behavioural Sciences at the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) recently held a Restorative Justice Symposium at the Mandeville campus, which sought to highlight benefits of restorative justice in conflict resolution and its potential impact on society.

The symposium, themed 'Restorative and Community Justice: Making Jamaica the Place of Choice to Live, Work, Raise Families and do Business', was addressed by keynote speaker, Resident Magistrate of Manchester, Oswald Burchenson.

Judge Burchenson posited that restorative justice is a tool that can change the apparent ineffectiveness of Jamaica's justice system.

"As the interest in, and understanding of restorative justice grows, it will yield more opportunities. It is a beacon of light in our society," he said.

Judge Burchenson argued that the current system considers "punishment" as the way to prevent crime and, as such, it perpetuates the ideology that punishment is the cornerstone of the criminal justice system. He added that this system of reform often fails because offenders are released into society where they are rejected by community members. The rejection, he contends, pushes individuals to resort to the same violent measures to demand respect.

full support

Chairperson for the Behavioural Sciences Department and coordinator of the event, Dr Grace Kelly said the university is in full support of the Ministry of Justice's decision to launch restorative justice in Jamaica.

She said, "I believe restorative justice should have been implemented long ago. The fact that this is happening now does not make it less significant."

Assistant Superintendent of Police, Llamar Clarke, who is also in charge of community safety and security at the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), said the organisation is embracing the precepts of restorative justice by building relationships with the younger individuals in the society.

"JCF is presently going into communities to engage the youths through Police Youth Club meetings, school programmes, forums and discussions. We try to show them that being resentful and violent will not solve their problems. We have to start with the younger generation to ensure that restorative justice works. We have to understand that the older generation is somewhat set in their ways and getting them to change presents us with a huge mountain to climb," he said.

Dale Johnson, community resource person for Kingston, said persons are gradually grasping the concept of restorative justice as they have seen its success.

"Its never too late," he said. 'This is a change that is needed. It's a slow process. Jamaicans like to see results first, but this will take some time. Jamaicans want a change," said Johnson.

The organisation (JCF) is embracing the precepts of restorative justice by building relationships with the younger individuals in the society.