More than 20 restorative justice officers have taken part in capacity-building workshops on handling complex and sensitive cases under a programme supporting Jamaica’s efforts to strengthen its criminal justice system.
At the invitation of the Ministry of Justice, the Commonwealth Secretariat conducted two three-day capacity-building workshops for restorative justice experts aimed at strengthening Jamaica’s criminal justice system.
The workshops, which were conducted in collaboration with the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Thames Valley Restorative Justice Services, took place in Saint Ann, Jamaica, from 14 – 17 June.
More than 20 restorative justice practitioners from 14 parishes and restorative justice centres across Jamaica took part in intensive practical simulation sessions and exercises covering a wide range of situations and issues, to advance their knowledge and skills to deliver effective restorative justice services. The second leg of the workshops focused on the training of trainers to further enhance the capacities and coaching skills of senior trainers, instructors, and experts, and their respective institutions.
Dr Tawanda Hondora, Head of the Rule of Law Division, who led the Secretariat’s team, commended the Government of Jamaica for its resolve to improve restorative justice frameworks. He said:
“This workshop is timely and important. Dealing with complex and sensitive cases is the most difficult but also the most rewarding aspect of restorative justice. The resolution of complex cases through restorative approaches not only contributes significantly to decongesting the courts but also strengthens community capital for justice and reconciliation. I strongly believe that building a critical mass of practitioners who can resolve complex cases through a restorative justice approach will go a long way in broadening access to justice, including for the vulnerable groups whether as victims or offenders.”
The Honourable Delroy Chuck, Jamaica’s Minister of Justice, said:
“We are very grateful for the technical assistance received from the Commonwealth Secretariat. Jamaica is building a robust alternative dispute resolution framework that broadens access to justice for Jamaicans. Our pioneering experience in Jamaica has shown that restorative justice works. We have been able to reduce the backlog of cases in our judicial system and strengthened our community-based reconciliation mechanisms.
Our mission is to take restorative justice to all the nooks and crannies of Jamaica in such a way that it will become the norm in our schools, churches, institutions, and communities. We are committed to further strengthening our strategic communication, monitoring, and evaluation mechanism for influencing evidence-based policies and effective restorative justice system and practices.”
Access to justice
Senior representatives from Jamaica’s justice system also took part in the workshops including Ms Grace Ann Stewart McFarlane, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice; Honourable Donna Parchment Brown, Office of the Political Ombudsman; Professor Anthony Harriot, former Director of the Institute of Criminal Justice and Security (ICJR), University of the West Indies (UWI); Charmaine Creary Beckford, Chief Technical Director at the Ministry of Justice; Dwight Powell, St Ann’s Senior Superintendent of Police; and Ms Andriene Lindsay, Coordinator of the Jamaica Restorative Justice Programme.
The workshops were deemed successful by participants who all received certificates of competence and vowed to use their newly acquired knowledge in delivering equal access to justice.
Mr Oral Taylor, who has worked at the Ministry of Justice for nine years in its Restorative Justice Unit at August Town, found the training very useful, saying it provided a lot of insight and enhanced his knowledge in restorative justice. He said:
“[The training taught us] how to manage complex cases much better. Prior to this, [the majority of cases] we were dealing with were post-charge cases. This training has enabled us to manage cases during the post-conviction stage and I believe that is wonderful for our justice system overall. It allows for victim closure, and it allows the offender to take responsibility and to make things right in order to [foster] their re-entry into communities. I believe this goes [a long way] in terms of enhancing the achievement of justice among different stakeholders – victims, offenders, and society as a whole. I am very appreciative of these few days of training and I am looking forward to learning more from the experts internationally.”
Ms Joanalee Robertson, a Restorative Justice Officer from Hanover Parish, who took part in the Training of Trainers workshop said the training would further support the government and its international obligations by reaching people on the ground. She said:
“The training will help us to better treat cases that come to restorative justice for a resolution, for the repairing of harm, and the restoration of relationships. It is something I know myself, as well as my colleagues, will be using on a daily basis in the operations of our centres.
The training has been so [well] organised and so well delivered. And I think that speaks to even the selection of the trainers, which I know again, is connected to the Commonwealth Secretariat [who have ensured that] the training delivered is of the highest quality. So, I look forward to future partnerships and I can't wait to see what will happen. I know that Jamaica will continue to be a flagship country as part of the Commonwealth.”
The workshops form part of the Secretariat’s ongoing mission to assist member countries in realising their targets of achieving SDG 16 (Sustainable Development Goal) of building just, inclusive, and peaceful societies, particularly in this last decade of action towards agenda 2030.
The Secretariat helps member countries strengthen the rule of law, promote the effective administration of justice, enhance good governance, and sustainable peace and security, by sharing best practices, training and capacity-building, technical assistance and policy research.
- Angela Kolongo Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
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