Review of RJ Week 2015

Restorative Justice Ven Diagram

Restorative Justice Ven Diagram

 

As Restorative Justice Week 2015 comes to a close, CURB wishes to highlight the agencies and organisations which made this year’s observance a tremendous success.

Our theme of “Communities Caring for Young Offenders” allowed us to partner with State, private and civil society agencies as we explored the current status of juvenile justice in Trinidad and Tobago.

We appreciate the partnership of Caring for Ex-Offenders (CFEO) and the Trinidad and Tobago Prisons Service together with whom we hosted a resoundingly successful Juvenile Aftercare Workshop on Wednesday 18th November 2015 for the benefit of representatives of faith and community based organisations. Due to the sterling presentations delivered by members of the Prisons Service, CFEO, Probation and CURB and the powerful testimony of an ex-lad, the attendees committed to supporting the upcoming aftercare initiative for lads at the Youth Training Centre.

Below is a copy of the programme for the Workshop. Look forward to a future blog post with photos and details about the Workshop.

 

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Radio stations I95.5FM, Sky 99.5FM, Talk City 91.1FM and ISAAC 98.1FM gave us some coverage to ventilate some of these important issues. Among topics raised were the present controversy surrounding the remanding of young persons to the Youth Training Centre (YTC), St. Michael’s Home for Boys, St. Jude’s School and Female Prison, particularly since the proclamation of the children’s package of legislation in May 2015.

Other concerns were as to the manner in which we as a society readily criminalise our youth for behaviours in which we once engaged and which were corrected by disapproval of the community. The recourse to criminalisation exacerbates the hurt in young persons (many of whom come from dysfunctional families or challenged socio-economic circumstances), hinders them in their future endeavours as they have a “record” and stigmatises them in the eyes of the community.

Suggestions were made as to the need to ensure that victims’ needs and concerns are taken into account in case management planning for persons sentenced to community service or detention/incarceration.

Prior to and during the course of RJ Week 2015, CURB made contact with representatives of the Ministries of Social Development, National Security and the Attorney General to ascertain the intention of the current administration in relation to the implementation of the recommendations from the Ex-Prisoners’ Report, the promotion of restorative justice and the development of a national RJ policy.

We await an acknowledgement of our correspondence and a full response to our inquiries from the respective ministries.

Arising from the activities and discussions of RJ Week 2015, however, we in CURB are looking forward to partnering with other State agencies and civil society organisations to develop new and more restorative initiatives to improve the system of juvenile justice, especially as it relates to the needs and concerns of victims of crime and the wider community.

RJ Week 2015 – Communities Caring for Young Offenders

The third week of November is here again and that means the start of International Restorative Justice Week!

In a nutshell, Restorative justice (RJ) is a philosophy and an approach that views crime and conflict as harm done to people and relationships. It is a non-adversarial, non-retributive approach to justice that emphasizes healing in victims, accountability of offenders, and the involvement of citizens in creating healthier, safer communities. The goal is to reach meaningful, satisfying, and fair outcomes through inclusion, open communication, and truth.

Restorative Justice enables victims of crime to explain directly how the offenders behaviour has affected them and to seek an explanation from the offender about what they did and why. This process allows victims to feel empowered and to help them move forward with their lives. Restorative Justice does not always replace Criminal Justice proceedings but can work alongside it.

This year, in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean Umbrella Body for Restorative Behaviour (CURB), has adopted the theme: “Communities Caring for Young Offenders” and has partnered with the non-governmental organisation, Caring for Ex-Offenders (CFEO), and the Trinidad and Tobago Prisons Service.

This theme calls us as a nation to revisit how we are addressing youth offending and criminal behaviour. As anti-social behaviour among school age youth increases and legal practitioners question the legitimacy of remanding children to facilities traditionally used for the purposes of youth detention (some of which facilities have been criticised for not being suitable for the purpose), CURB is seeking a commitment from the new Government to rethink how we treat with the issue of youth offending.

It comes on the heels of the commencement of the Juvenile Court Project (being undertaken by the Judiciary of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the UNDP and USAID), the proclamation of most of the children’s package of legislation and damning reports of the state of affairs at certain children’s homes.

CURB agrees that there is need for the furtherance of the discussion on a National Restorative Justice Policy which commenced in 2014 under the aegis of the former Ministry of Justice. Such a policy must not restrict the understanding or implementation of restorative justice to criminal acts alone, the Prisons environment or to the rehabilitation of offenders.

Rather, it needs to be holistic and identify who has been harmed, which relationships were broken, what needs have arisen as a consequence of the crime or offending behaviour, and who is obligated to help repair the harm. In that context, restorative justice needs to span the length and breath of society in our nation, encompassing the fields of education, social development, health, community development, social services, justice and law enforcement to name a few.

Moreover, the national conversation on the needs of persons who survive criminal attacks must continue beyond token efforts. Last December’s launch of a Victims’ Handbook by the Ministry of Justice cannot be allowed to vanish into political obscurity now that that Ministry has been assimilated into the Ministries of the Attorney General and National Security. The matter of addressing the needs of crime survivors ought not to be a political tool or ploy but it must be regarded as central to our understanding of restorative justice and how we purpose to live as a society.

As CURB commemorates International Restorative Justice Week 2015, we are seeking to elicit an answer from relevant State agencies as to the intention of the new administration in relation to the adoption of restorative justice as a philosophy to transform the criminal justice system; the whereabouts and future of the body of work done in regards to the aforementioned victims’ handbook; the development of a Victims’ Charter; the completion of a National Restorative Justice Policy; the implementation of the Ex-Prisoners Committee Report from 2006, and related matters.

Look out for discussion on these issues and the topic of juvenile justice as we appear on various radio stations during RJ Week. In addition, CURB is partnering with CFEO and the Prisons Service to host an Aftercare Workshop on 18th November which is targeted to community and faith based organisations interested in serving as mentors for young offenders.

RJ Week 2014 – Inspiring Innovation

For the 2014 observance of Restorative Justice Week, CURB was honoured to partner with the Ministry of Justice and the Trinidad and Tobago Prisons Service to promote true restorative justice to the population of Trinidad and Tobago via the various media houses.

The partnership was arrived at in the aftermath of the first national conference on Restorative Justice which was hosted by the Ministry of Justice on 13 and 14 October 2014. Following the clear and unambiguous presentation by CURB at the conference outlining restorative justice, it was felt that there was a need to ensure that the public had a clear understanding of true restorative justice before they were approached by the State to “buy in” to the philosophy.

A representative of CURB appeared on 2 television interviews and 5 radio interviews with a representative of the Ministry of Justice or Prisons Service. Also involved in the planning and participation in media interviews was Victim Support Foundation.

Due to scheduling challenges, the interviews spanned a period of 2-3 weeks and therefore had greater impact and coverage beyond International Restorative Justice Week which was observed from 16-23 November, 2014.

The interviews allowed for promoting the philosophy of restorative justice, its benefits to victims of crime, its possible impact on the administration of justice and its effects on offenders and the community.

On all of the interviews, there were many questions asked by media professionals and callers. We were able to share how restorative justice can apply in a variety of situations, including those involving serious offences such as murder, kidnapping as well as those of a domestic or sexual nature.

We look forward to seeing what the Ministry of Justice will do as it continues to fulfil its mandate to transform the criminal justice system. As long as they remain committed to rolling out true restorative justice, CURB shall continue to partner with them for the good of our national population.

On its own initiative, to commence Restorative Justice Week 2014, CURB participated in a sensitisation session on restorative practices at the invitation of the staff of a primary school. Our representative was able to use a variety of training techniques to explain restorative justice, restorative practices and to simulate a restorative circle.

The feedback from the staff, parents and others in attendance was very positive and they now view restorative justice and restorative practices as a viable solution to address the multiple challenges being faced in educational settings.

RJ Week 2011 – Raising The Standards

The period 13th to 19th November 2011 marks Restorative Justice Week in Trinidad and Tobago and around the world.

Coming on the heels of the first Mediation Week in Trinidad and Tobago, Restorative Justice Week has been observed locally during the third week of November each year since 2003.

Caribbean Umbrella Body For Restorative Behaviour (CURB) – a network of NGOs which has spearheaded RJ Week activities since 2005 – has selected the theme, “Raising the Standards” to mark this year’s national observance.

This year’s activities will explore a range of pertinent topics including Victims’ Rights and the Media; What Works in Restoring Offenders; Restoring Communities; Mediating Gang Disputes; and Best Practices in Restoring Crime Survivors and their loved ones.

Restorative Justice Week 2011 is the result of collaboration among CURB, the University of the West Indies, several non-profit and community-based organisations.

The public is cordially invited to attend the open events which will be hosted at the Port of Spain City Hall on Monday 14th and Tuesday 1th November, 2011 from 8:30am.

Of particular interest for Tuesday 15th November 2011 is a Panel Discussion on Victims Rights and the Media which will examine the need for a Code of Conduct for media houses as they seek to report on crime and offending in our country.

Limited seating is also available to members of the public wishing to attend the Mediating Gang Disputes Symposium at the UWI on Wednesday 16th November 2011.

Details of the respective events are included in the documents available for download below. The Agenda for the Week also contains the names and contact numbers of the respective organisers.

Downloads:-

Media Release for Restoratve Justice Week 2011 (PDF)

Agenda for Restorative Justice Week 2011 (PDF)

Mediating Gang Disputes (PDF)

RJ Week UWI Training Flyer (PDF)

RJ Week 2010 – Communities Caring for Ex-Offenders: Tobago

For our observance of R.J. Week 2010, CURB supported an initiative of the local NGO, Caring for Ex-Offenders (CFEO) to host 2 national training events for faith based and community based leaders to enable them to safely support ex-prisoners in their communities.

The second event was held on Wednesday 24th November, 2010 at the Mount Irvine Bay Hotel, Mount Irvine, Tobago.

The initiative was privileged to receive the support of the Tobago House of Assembly, Department of Social Services and Gender Affairs with overwhelming participation from the Tobago Pastors and Ministers Association.

Approximately 105 persons from faith based organisations, community based organisations, CURB, Prison Fellowship, the Prisons Service, Probation Services and other departments of the THA converged to listen to speakers from the United Kingdom and Trinidad and Tobago.

The UK presenters, led by Ms. Merilyn Wilson, shared with local stakeholders the Caring for Ex-Offenders model of aftercare which originated with Holy Trinity Brompton, Alpha International and the charity, Caring for Ex-Offenders, in the UK.

The success of the model in that country to dramatically reduce rates of re-offending through faith based mentoring and support has led to it being endorsed by Home Office, Police and other officials in the UK.

The local presenter was Mr. Adrian Alexander, President of the local Caring for Ex-Offenders (CFEO) as well as President of Caribbean Umbrella Body for Restorative Behaviour (CURB).

Mr. Alexander stated that the CFEO model has been modified for use in this country to take into account the unique cultural and other dynamics of our people. In particular, emphasis will be placed on empowering ex-offenders to take responsibility for their actions, make amends to their primary and secondary victims and become active participants in strengthening the national community.

He indicated that a networking of faith based organisations to assist ex-offenders in their safe reintegration was an essential component to add to the Cabinet approved Turning Of The Hearts programme to treat with re-offending by ex-offenders.

Churches which are interested in working with ex-offenders are encouraged to register with CFEO at their website. Those which do so shall be included in a national directory and shall receive training for their members in mentoring ex-offenders and other core skills in the new year.

Community based and non-governmental organisations which wish to work with ex-offenders were encouraged to register with CURB to form part of a national NGO/CBO directory to lend support to faith based organisations.

Participation in this CFEO Training Day allowed CURB an opportunity to share the work we do with a wider audience through the mini Restorative Justice Exhibition which formed part of the event.

This RJ Exhibition allowed several participating NGOs to display their brochures and other promotional materials for the benefit of the State and faith based representatives who attended the Training Day.

CURB looks forward to working along with CFEO and other organisations in the new year towards developing minimum standards of training for volunteers to work with offenders as well as ex-offenders and their families.

RJ Week 2010 – Communities Caring for Ex-Offenders: Trinidad

For our observance of R.J. Week 2010, CURB supported an initiative of the local NGO, Caring for Ex-Offenders (CFEO) to host 2 national training events for faith based and community based leaders to enable them to safely support ex-prisoners in their communities.

The first event was held on Monday 22nd November, 2010 at the Prisons Training College, Bandoo Avenue, Tumpuna Road, Arima in the island of Trinidad.

The initiative was privileged to receive the support of the Trinidad and Tobago Prisons Service, the Penal Reform and Transformation Unit, Prison Fellowship Trinidad and Tobago and the Council of Prison Chaplains and Ministers!

Approximately 160 persons from the Prisons Service, Probation Services, various prison ministries, faith based and community based organisations converged to listen to speakers from the United Kingdom and Trinidad and Tobago.

The UK presenters, led by Ms. Merilyn Wilson, shared with local stakeholders the Caring for Ex-Offenders model of aftercare which originated in the UK with Holy Trinity Brompton, Alpha International and the charity, Caring for Ex-Offenders.

The success of the model in that country to dramatically reduce rates of re-offending through faith based mentoring and support has led to it being endorsed by Home Office, Police and other officials in the UK. As recently as July, 2010 Caring for Ex-Offenders was one of 7 charities (amongst nearly 500 applicants) to receive an award for effective poverty fighting by the Centre for Social Justice in the UK.

The model as used in the UK is complemented with programmes for ex-offenders and other church members to address family challenges, drug counselling and financial management, all from a biblical perspective.

The CFEO model is now in use in parts of the USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Singapore and now Trinidad and Tobago.

Local presenters included Mr. Adrian Alexander, President of the local Caring for Ex-Offenders (as well as Chairman of the Board of CURB), Mr. Gordon Husbands of the Penal Reform and Transformation Unit, Mrs. Jacinta Bailey-Sobers of the Ministry of the People and Social Development, Ms. Claire Blandin of the Probation Division of the Ministry of Justice and Mr. Richard Barker of New Hope Prison Ministry.

Churches which are interested in working with ex-offenders are encouraged to register with CFEO at their website. Those which do so shall be included in a national directory and shall receive training for their members in mentoring ex-offenders and other core skills in the new year.

Community based and non-governmental organisations which wish to work with ex-offenders are encouraged to register with CURB to form part of a national NGO/CBO directory to lend support to faith based organisations.

As part of this CFEO Training Day, a Restorative Justice Exhibition was held which involved various State and non-State agencies putting their materials and promotional literature on display and engaging in networking with those present.

CURB looks forward to working along with CFEO and other organisations in the new year towards developing minimum standards of training for volunteers to work with offenders as well as ex-offenders and their families.

RJ Week 2009 – People Are NOT For Sale

In December 2008 CURB was led to focus on the issue of human trafficking for Restorative Justice Week 2009 (15th to 21st November) and beyond. Our theme is: “People Are NOT For Sale”.

Commencing in December 2008, our activities have included the expansion of our networking with NGOs in the Caribbean and internationally to encompass those with considerable experience in counter-trafficking initiatives. CURB also created a dedicated Counter-Trafficking Website to end Human Trafficking in the Caribbean.

Following months of collaboration, CURB, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the Ministry of National Security hosted a workshop on Monday 13th July, 2009 for prison ministries and prison officers on Understanding and Responding to Human Trafficking. A similar workshop was convened for community-based and faith-based organisations on Tuesday 14th July, 2009.

For details about these workshops please click here.

In October and November, 2009 CURB highlighted the issue of Human Trafficking in Trinidad and Tobago on radio programmes and through the conduct of presentations with faith based and other groups to build awareness of what is human trafficking and how various segments of the society can work towards eliminating this evil and provide effective support to its victims.

CURB is committed to partner with governmental and non-governmental agencies in the fight against trafficking in persons and to assist trafficked persons. Our interest in this issue is not limited to 2009 and the fight to end human slavery will continue until it is abolished!

For more information about how you can be involved in Ending Human Trafficking in the Caribbean, please visit our dedicated Counter-Trafficking Website.

If you are unfamiliar with issues of trafficking in persons we encourage you to listen to a short testimony of a sex trafficking victim and of a labour exploitation victim.

RJ Week 2008 – Your Strength Is Not For Hurting

For Restorative Justice Week 2008 (16th to 22nd November, 2008), CURB tackled the subject of domestic abuse in the national community including that perpetrated by ex-prisoners seeking to re-enter their families after a period of incarceration.

Our motto for the Restorative Justice Week 2008 observance was “Your Strength Is Not For Hurting”. CURB believes that it is important to impress upon boys and men in our society that their strength was not given to them by God to cause pain and suffering to women and children in their families and communities. Rather, their strength is given to them by God to protect their families and communities and to work diligently to provide for their loved ones.

In addition, CURB is aware that many young offenders come from families where they may have witnessed domestic violence being utilised as a means of resolving conflicts. We believe that no young person is disposable and intend to work towards providing an opportunity for them to change.

International research suggests that many young offenders are in need of new role models and life skills to unlearn the anti-social behaviour patterns into which they were socialised and to adopt new law-abiding restorative principles and patterns of conduct.

As such, CURB commenced a mentoring programme for young male offenders at the Youth Training Centre. Approval for the programme was granted by the prison authorities on Monday 17th November, 2008.

The Being Somebody programme is a pilot project whereby men in the community will be screened and trained as mentors for the young male offenders and will assist them during and after their detention in order for the young male offenders to successfully re-enter their communities. It will encompass counselling, education, vocational skills, life skills, sports, family reconciliation and employment for the young male offenders.

In addition, the Being Somebody programme will involve the intervention of the faith community in Trinidad and Tobago and professional counsellors to work with the families of the young male offenders to resolve family disputes, treat with employment needs, education/skills needs, and to provide other required support.

Churches desiring to participate in this and similar programmes of providing aftercare for offenders are encouraged to contact Caring for Ex-Offenders (CFEO).

In the media, CURB President, Adrian N. Alexander was interviewed by Donald Berment of Men Against Violence Against Women (MAVAW) on Wednesday 12th November, 2008 on 103 FM radio and advocated restorative justice to treat with domestic violence. On Sunday 16th November, 2008 Mr. Alexander interviewed social worker Darlene Smith on ISAAC 98.1 FM about restorative interventions to address family violence.

On Tuesday 18th November, 2008 Mr. Alexander delivered a Feature Address on restorative justice at the inauguration of the new Board of Directors of Vision on Mission which was covered by the local media. On Thursday 20th November, 2008 he spoke as part of a panel on youth offender rehabilitation on Acts 25 Television’s Youth Nation, highlighting the role of the community in restorative justice to support and restore crime survivors and offenders.

CURB Director, Wayne Chance, interviewed Mr. Alexander on I95.5FM on Friday 21st November, 2008 where he advocated community support for victims and offenders and he closed the week on Sunday 23rd November, 2008 with a radio programme on ISAAC 98.1 FM in which he disseminated information to empower victims of domestic violence and challenge the community to intervene and support victims and abusers alike.

RJ Week 2007 – Not Part of the Sentence

In 2007 CURB tackled the ‘taboo’ subject of prison sexual assault which is an experience capable of adversely affecting an ex-prisoner’s ability to successfully re-integrate into society.

CURB sought to make the point that sexual and other abuses of prisoners are NOT part of the sentence imposed by any Court and therefore must be eliminated. We also educated the public about the problem and consequences of prisoner abuse through editorial letters, press releases and the distribution of Stop Prison Rape brochures and multimedia.

All of these publications and resources are available online from our RJ Week 2007 Archives.

Apart from international agencies such as Stop Prisoner Rape (now called Just Detention International), in the USA and Survivors Swindon in the UK, CURB collaborated with the members of the Council of Prison Chaplains and Ministers (COPCAM), the Rape Crisis Society, Dolly & Associates Limited and other local agencies to provide support and resources for prisoners and ex-prisoners who are victimised through sexual assault while in custody.

The main activity for RJ Week 2007 was the hosting by CURB of an intensive 5-day training programme at the Church On The Rock (Morvant Open Bible Church), Corner Lady Young Road and Caledonia Road, Morvant to equip persons to effectively counsel both survivors and perpetrators of sexual assault.

CURB’s commitment to fully ventilate all issues in relation to the abuse of prisoners has led us to seek funding approval from various government ministries to conduct in-depth analysis and develop comprehensive approaches to eradicate prison sex abuse in Trinidad and Tobago.

We have also set up a dedicated website geared towards eliminating the causes of prison abuse in the Caribbean region. To follow the work of CURB and the growing coalition of Caribbean organisations concerned about ending all abuses of prisoners, please visit our new website – Stop Prison Abuse.

RJ Week 2007 was preceded by and concluded with landmark radio interviews on ISAAC 98.1 FM. For audio files of these interviews including testimonies of prison sexual assault please visit the Resources Page of Stop Prison Abuse.

Please Click Here for a Review of Restorative Justice Week 2007.

Photographs of the activities from Restorative Justice Week 2007 are available here.

RJ Week 2006 – Turning of the Hearts

CURB utilised Restorative Justice Week 2006 to host its formal launch on Monday 13th November 2006 at the Port of Spain City Hall in Trinidad. The Honourable Anthony Roberts, Minister of Social Development, attended and delivered the Feature Address at the event. A copy of his speech is is available from the RJ Week 2006 Archives.

Among the events for Restorative Justice Week were the hosting of the nation’s first Restorative Justice Exhibition which was also held on Monday 13th November 2006 at the Port of Spain City Hall in Trinidad.

In preparation for the event, CURB developed a series of brochures about CURB, the Restorative Justice Fund, Restorative Justice and Balanced Restorative Justice. All of the brochures are available from our Brochure Archives.

CURB also convened the First National Stakeholders Consultation on Transitional Accommodation for Ex-Prisoners on Friday 17th November, 2006. We were pleased to have Mrs. Jacinta Bailey-Sobers, then Chief Technical Officer of the Ministry of Social Development, attend and deliver the Feature Address at the Consultation which was convened at the Maximum Security Prison in Arouca. A copy of Mrs. Sobers’ speech is available from the RJ Week 2006 Archives.

Photographs of the activities from Restorative Justice Week 2006 are available here.