Public awareness session on restorative justice aims to empower residents

Persons living along the West Coast Berbice on Saturday benefitted from a public awareness engagement on Restorative Justice hosted by the Attorney General’s Chambers. The engagement was held at the Latchmansingh Primary School in Bush Lot, West Coast Berbice.

Residents were given the opportunity to seek clarity on a number of related areas, as well as additional information about the Restorative Justice Act.

Restorative Justice is defined as an alternative approach to justice that seeks to repair harm by providing opportunities for the victim and perpetrator to communicate about and address their needs in the aftermath, in a way that promotes healing, accountability, and understanding.

This approach forms part of the IDB-funded Support for the Criminal Justice System (SCJS) Programme, which was primarily launched to address overcrowding in prisons.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC said that this approach also aims to foster collaboration and improve relations between law enforcement and communities.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC

He added that the conventional system of punishment is not a cure-all, and even wholly ineffective in some cases. Hence, there exists a need for innovative alternatives in addressing low-level crime, to ensure rehabilitation and reformation, and prevent recidivism.

Moreover, successful implementation of this approach to justice requires cohesiveness and the involvement of a number of institutions, such as religious entities, law enforcement and, of equal importance, members of the public.

“Restorative Justice is also about getting to you before you get to the Justice system. We have to train the public to begin to practice restorative Justice in your community, in the Mandirs, the Mosques, the Churches, in your social environment, very early when the problem arises, so that it doesn’t graduate to the criminal system. This restorative Justice allows you to become part of the Justice system,” the AG said.  

Director of the Restorative Justice Centre, Seelall Persaud, highlighted the importance of a community coming together with a problem-solving attitude to address the issue.

He added that the public awareness session is meant to empower residents with adequate knowledge of government’s programmes, policies and legislation, as well as to engage them on their role and responsibilities as citizens.

A section of the gathering at the public awareness engagement on Restorative Justice

According to Persaud, restorative justice comprises three elements: engagements with the victim, engagements with the offender, and engagements with the community, to ascertain what harm was done and to decide on adequate correctional measures.

 It also intends to ascertain a cause for the offense, or the underlying circumstances. This means that the problem is addressed at the root, and a sustainable solution put in place to restore order in the aftermath of the crime.

Persaud said, “What this process does is bring communities together, to treat this particular crime, but the relationship that is built among community members help them to look out for each other, and that is the kind of nurturing that is required in communities so that our youths grow and become productive adults.”

The implementation of this approach, and the overarching SCJS programme are key facets of government’s commitment to transforming Guyana’s Criminal Justice System from penal to correctional. These awareness sessions promote citizen involvement, which will allow for training, and smooth integration in the process.

Also present at the engagement were Programme Manager of the Support for the Criminal Justice System Programme, Indira Anandjit, and Regional Member of Parliament for Region Five, Faizal Jafferally.