Restorative Justice Centre officially launched

As government advances efforts to enhance Guyana’s criminal justice system, the Restorative Justice Centre pilot programme was officially launched at the Police Training Centre, Camp and Young Streets, Georgetown on Wednesday.

Restorative justice seeks to evaluate the damaging impact of a crime and then detect what may be done to repair that harm while holding the offender responsible for his or her actions.

During the ceremony, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall, SC, said Guyana is one of the leading examples in embracing the restorative justice concept.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall, SC, during the launch of the Restorative Justice Centre

The concept will address offenders who committed minor and non-violent crimes. The programme is not extended to serious crimes such as murder, treason, and terrorism, among others. 

“Why I insist on this type of launch is not because we want it done publicly, but because the success of the concept depends largely on societal participation…bringing greater consciousness and public awareness to the concept across the country,” the Attorney General underscored.

He explained that the punitive and restitutive methods of punishment are not aiding in reducing the crime rate. However, the initiative seeks to ultimately reduce overcrowding in prisons countrywide.  

It also focuses on repairing the harm caused by criminal behaviour, bringing the victim, offender, and their communities together in a decision-making process, to determine how the victim can be healed and to address the underlying cause of the offender’s inappropriate, illegal, or antisocial behaviour.

A section of the gathering, during the launch of the Restorative Justice Centre

Different institutions in society including family, education, religion, and the justice system are interconnected, thus persons from various institutions were trained to aid in the success of the initiative. Teachers, religious entities, and the Guyana Police Force are among those who benefitted from such training.

The minister urged students of the University of Guyana, particularly from the social sciences faculty to conduct studies on restorative methods to deal with crime.  

He said they, “can use this concept of restorative Justice as part of their pursuits, and more importantly produce papers, do studies, examine empirical statistics that will enable us to strengthen this concept.” 

Meanwhile, Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr Vindhya Persaud, underlined that rehabilitating persons who commit non-violent crimes can possibly prevent them from committing more severe offences.

“It has an impact because it focuses not only on the perpetrator of the crime, but the person who would have experienced that crime,” she noted.

Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn, during the launch of the Restorative Justice Centre

Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn added that the issue of restorative justice goes beyond incarceration, to understanding how to prevent the escalation of less violent offences at the community level.