Justice Minister, Hon. Delroy Chuck, says the Government plans to increase to 20 the number of Restorative Justice Centres established across the island.
Addressing the virtual launch of the Restorative Justice Facilitator Training Programme on Monday (July 12), he also announced plans to establish one facility in Maverley, in St. Andrew North Western and one in the constituency of St. Andrew South Western, at the request of the members of Parliament for those areas.
Justice centres, which have been established in every parish, are equipped to handle matters related to child diversion and restorative justice, as well as dispute resolution, among other justice-related issues. They also serve as a point of contact for custodes and justices of the peace.
“The Ministry of Justice is committed to make restorative justice a major part of the work that we will be carrying out, and we are doing so because we have seen that it is successful,” Mr. Chuck said.
Restorative justice is a type of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) method, focused on achieving conflict resolution through the use of conferences.
The Justice Minister noted that the thousands of conferences that have been undertaken have resulted in a more than 90 per cent resolution and settlement rate, pointing to notable success stories in communities such as Tivoli Gardens, Denham Town, Tower Hill and Granville.
“We consider restorative justice to be very important. We not only want police officers, teachers [and] pastors but other stakeholders across Jamaica to be sensitised on restorative justice [and] also to ensure that if there are disputes, that they can be referred to the justice centres,” he said.
Mr. Chuck noted that in promoting restorative justice, the Government has a sure strategy “to settle disputes, a strategy to resolve conflicts, and a strategy to really deal with the pandemic of abuses, of violence… and also to deal with crime as they occur in so many neighbourhoods and communities across Jamaica”.
He pointed out that increased referrals of cases that can be settled outside of the courts, to the parish justice centres, have contributed significantly to the reduction of backlog cases in the courts.
“The judges have now been sensitised; they are aware that restorative justice is the way forward and so they are referring more cases to the justice centres and this demonstrates that restorative justice not only works but that persons are basically keen on getting matters settled,” he said.
Mr. Chuck encouraged the 103 persons who will be trained as Restorative Justice Facilitators over a two-week period, to use the information to “make a difference in your communities”.
In the meantime, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland, praised the Government on its drive to deliver impactful restorative justice programmes.
“It is really encouraging to see pioneering progress being made in Jamaica and dynamic action to implement innovative policies and legislative reform to strengthen national institutional and human resource capacity, notably to deliver effective restorative justice programmes,” she said.