#Jamaica, October 11, 2017 – Kingston – Jamaicans have become more receptive and are beginning to see significant benefits from participation in the Restorative Justice Programme of the Ministry of Justice. According to Coordinator of the Restorative Justice Unit, Kahilah Whyte, between January and July of this year, some 82 conferences were held, with 684 individuals participating in the restorative justice process. Of the 82 conferences held, 78 resulted in an agreement to resolve the conflict.
Speaking on a recent Jamaica Information Service (JIS) Issues & Answers interview, Mrs. Whyte said that restorative justice is working in Jamaica, and people “are not only receptive, they have bought in”. She noted that a cultural shift is taking place, where persons are turning to the programme, through restorative justice centres set up islandwide, to resolve conflicts.
“People are willing to change, especially when they know that the process is free. This can lessen the stress in their lives, and it is another way to reduce the huge backlog that we are having in the court system,” Mrs. Whyte said.
She credited the programme for success in communities such as August Town, which has seen significant decrease in crime, recording zero murders in 2016.
“We are seeing more camaraderie, more peace, and the Restorative Justice Centre is keen to spread this peace throughout the island. People are hungry for that, they want change. They are coming in and calling in to be a part of the process,” Mrs. Whyte said.
She urged churches, workplaces and community organisations to reach out to the Restorative Justice Unit for free sessions on restorative justice practices, which will introduce participants to conflict management principles and techniques. She further encouraged persons to become restorative justice facilitators and volunteers. Forms are available online, at the restorative justice centres and at the Ministry. Volunteers will be trained on the conference process, conflict resolution, and communication skills, among others.
“The Minister and the Permanent Secretary are committed to the programme. We are actively going into schools, churches, getting Justices of the Peace to come on board with us, helping persons to become facilitators and to teach each other how to manage the situations better,” she said.