Breaking the Cycle of Violence in Jamaica
Throughout the recommendations, the Committee included mechanisms for community empowerment. In recommendation four, it named two goals:
Introduce restorative justice programs at the community level
Institutionalize restorative justice through Peace and Justice Centres
With these recommendations, the Committee reaffirmed three existing projects. Each of these programs-- the Dispute Resolution Foundation, Peace and Love in Schools, and the Police Mediation Unit-- were created in 1994 with the goal of changing the ways in which conflicts were handled in Jamaican Society.
Originally formed as the Mediation Council of Jamaica, the Dispute Resolution Foundation offers mediation training to community members, police, teachers, lay magistrates, and youth. DRF trains mediators and creates Peace and Justice Centres in communities to provide a safe place for the discussion and resolution of conflicts in the community. The Peace and Justice Centres accept referrals from courts, local Churches, and walk-in clients from the local communities. These Centres are seen as a tool for lowering the number of murders related to domestic disputes.
Peace and Love in Schools develops programs to teach non-violent conflict resolution in schools and to incorporate peace education in the curriculum. PALS trains teachers in negotiation, communication, anger management, and the delivery of peace education courses. Also, students in both primary and secondary schools are trained as peer mediators. Many schools designate special places for students to use when there is a conflict. For example, the Oracabessa Primary School set up a peace hut as a quiet location for students to practice their mediation skills.
The Police Mediation Unit was created by Col. Trevor McMillan, Police Commissioner at the time, as a response to the problem of domestic violence. The unit's purpose is two fold: to mediate disputes before they escalated to severe violence and to train other police officers in conflict resolution. It is now a part of the Community Relations Programme.
The unit began by training fifteen officers as mediators. These officers handled 300 cases in the first four months of the unit's existence. In 2000, the Mediation unit had grown to 49 trained mediators waiting to be assigned to police units throughout the island. The goal is to train each police officer in conflict resolution techniques. Mediation training will be mandatory for officers completing the two-year on the road training in general policing.
Along with its mediation duties, the Unit also participates in community educational activities through lectures and seminars to schools, training institutions, churches, neighborhood watch groups, police youth clubs, and other police departments.
In addition to the recent affirmation from the National Committee on Crime and Violence, each of these projects has received support from the Jamaican government and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) for a number of years. In 1999, CIDA funded the five year Social Conflict and Legal Reform Project (SCLRP) to aid the Jamaican government and society in these efforts. The hope is that Jamaican communities can become stronger and more stable through the use of restorative practices.
Resources used to compile this article