Although the restorative justice process is being promoted as a way of resolving disputes and reducing the number of court cases being sent for trial, at least two stakeholders in the process differ on how well informed the public is about it.
Restorative justice is a process by which all parties in a dispute are brought together to discuss and resolve the underlying conflict and resulting harm without having the matter linger before the courts.
Reverend Marc Mullings of the Emmanuel Chapel in Mt Salem, St James, who is a restorative justice advocate, told The Gleaner that despite efforts by the Government to sensitise the public about the process, Jamaicans have a retaliatory mindset that demands immediate justice for wrongdoing.
“Restorative justice isn’t a new concept internationally, and a lot of energy went into informing the public what it’s about, because it was discussed on radio and TV, and we went out and talked to people about it. The Government of Jamaica really expended a lot into explaining restorative justice, so I’d be hard-pressed as to why persons don’t know about restorative justice,” said Mullings.
“We in Jamaica want our pound of flesh, and we want to know that if this man took my fingernail, I now have the right to take his entire hand. The issues we’re faced with in this country could be easily dealt with if we were more willing to forgive,” Mullings added.
But attorney-at-law and past president of the Cornwall Bar Association, Clayton Morgan, voiced the view that more education needs to be circulated to the public about restorative justice.
“Unless Jamaicans are sensitised to the benefits of the restorative justice system, and until they understand that sending an accused person to prison for three years isn’t going to help the complainants at all, they’re going to find it hard to accept. The public is not being properly informed or sensitised about it,” said Morgan.
Between December 2018 and January last year, the Ministry of Justice’s Restorative Justice Unit (RJU) held 810 restorative justice/ dispute resolution sessions, 637 of which involved cases referred by the island’s courts to reduce their backlogs. The RJU reported a success rate of 85.3 per cent, with plans to increase that figure to 90 per cent this year.