Call for a Restora­tive Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Sys­tem

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

By Ken­dall Elva

The vic­tims and per­pe­tra­tors of crime are not uniquely char­ac­ter­ized by a par­tic­u­lar so­cio-eco­nomic sta­tus, age, sex or back­ground; rather ev­ery­one is im­pacted by this so­cial is­sue. Rape and other forms of sex­ual vi­o­lence, child abuse and ne­glect, theft and mur­der are just a few of the crimes of sig­nif­i­cant con­cern to the Saint Lu­cian peo­ple. Though some vic­tims feel a sense of jus­tice af­ter go­ing through the court sys­tem, many of­ten feel the harm done by the of­fender has not been re­paired. For a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of vic­tims, jus­tice was not their re­al­ity and ex­pe­ri­ence. While the long pe­riod of time spent on re­mand by in­di­vid­u­als charged with crimes is a ma­jor in­jus­tice plagu­ing our jus­tice sys­tem.

It is within the con­text of the afore­men­tioned back­ground that the Saint Lu­cia As­so­ci­a­tion of So­cial Work­ers calls for a more ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive jus­tice sys­tem which is based on the prin­ci­ples of restora­tive jus­tice.

Restora­tive jus­tice is a process where all stake­hold­ers af­fected by a crime are granted an op­por­tu­nity to dis­cuss how they have been im­pacted and to agree on mea­sures to re­pair the harm. The pro­cesses used dur­ing restora­tive jus­tice place a sig­nif­i­cant em­pha­sis on the needs of vic­tims, of­fend­ers, fam­ily mem­bers and the community.

Thus, in keep­ing with the prin­ci­ples of restora­tive jus­tice the Saint Lu­cia As­so­ci­a­tion of So­cial Work­ers calls for a jus­tice sys­tem which at­tends to the di­verse needs of the vic­tim. Jus­tice should not be lim­ited to the pay­ment of fines and in­car­cer­a­tion. We must es­tab­lish the nec­es­sary pro­grammes and agen­cies to deal with the psy­cho­log­i­cal and long-term eco­nomic im­pact of crime on vic­tims and their fam­i­lies.

Also, the Saint Lu­cia As­so­ci­a­tion of So­cial Work­ers notes that we have to take a se­ri­ous look at the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­gramme at the Borde­lais Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity. This pro­gramme should be based on ev­i­dence and re­search, make use of best prac­tices, and re­flect a wrap­around ap­proach which is holis­tic in na­ture. The pro­gramme must be sup­ported by a well-trained staff which is suf­fi­cient in quan­tity. As a so­ci­ety, ef­forts must be made to suc­cess­fully rein­te­grate of­fend­ers into the community. Ac­cord­ingly, the As­so­ci­a­tion calls for an af­ter­care pro­gramme for of­fend­ers who have been re­leased from the Borde­lais Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity. This af­ter­care pro­gramme should pro­vide of­fend­ers with re­sources and ser­vices in­tended to min­i­mize re­of­fend­ing by mean­ing­fully en­gag­ing the strengths of the in­di­vid­ual. The mind­set and at­ti­tude of the community should be more sup­port­ive of the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and rein­te­gra­tion process.

With re­gard to ju­ve­nile jus­tice, the Saint Lu­cia As­so­ci­a­tion of So­cial Work­ers is of the view that our present sys­tem needs to make pro­vi­sion for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a court di­ver­sion pro­gramme. In ad­di­tion to aid­ing the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of ju­ve­niles, a court di­ver­sion pro­gramme can re­duce the ex­po­sure of our young peo­ple to the stigma and dis­crim­i­na­tion ex­pe­ri­enced by con­victed of­fend­ers. Fur­ther, it can mit­i­gate against the pos­si­bil­ity of a ju­ve­nile of­fender fall­ing vic­tim to la­bel­ing the­ory which may lead to re­of­fend­ing.

The As­so­ci­a­tion be­lieves that there should be par­ity in ju­ve­nile jus­tice. At present Saint Lu­cia has one res­i­den­tial fa­cil­ity which caters for the needs of male ju­ve­nile of­fend­ers. There­fore, the As­so­ci­a­tion calls for the es­tab­lish­ment of a res­i­den­tial fa­cil­ity for fe­male ju­ve­nile of­fend­ers. Very im­por­tantly, both res­i­den­tial fa­cil­i­ties should re­flect a strong fo­cus on re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, af­ter­care and rein­te­gra­tion.

Though it may be im­pos­si­ble to rid so­ci­ety of crime, we should re­main res­o­lute in our ef­forts to re­duce its in­ci­dence. The prin­ci­ples of restora­tive jus­tice are fun­da­men­tal to re­al­iz­ing a so­ci­ety which is safe for all ci­ti­zens. Ev­ery ef­fort must be in­vested from a leg­isla­tive, in­sti­tu­tional and pro­gram­matic per­spec­tive if we are to have a so­ci­ety which re­sponds to the positive as­pi­ra­tions of all ci­ti­zens.

Ken­dall Elva is the Pres­i­dent of the Saint Lu­cia As­so­ci­a­tion of So­cial Work­ers

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