At the tender age of 13, George Young’s life change forever when he was left crippled after being shot by a drug addicted family friend. “I saw him with the gun in his hand while sitting in my living room in Fletcher’s Land,” he recalls. “He pointed it in my direction and I ran into my room. Moments later I came out of my room hoping he had left, but to my surprise he was still there and that is when I was shot,” he tells JIS News.
While the violent act initially left him bitter and eager for revenge against the offender, Mr. Young says that through intense rehabilitation and healing, and the love and support of friends and family, he came out of the experience with “a deep sense of caring for all human conditions no matter your colour, class or creed.”
He tells JIS News that at the trial years later, “they wanted to give him (the offender) the death penalty, but members of my community and I assisted his attorneys by doing a campaign against it, testifying to his character. I do not believe in the death penalty. In fact, I advocate for the death penalty to be removed from Jamaica’s law books. I have forgiven him.”
It was his journey towards forgiveness and healing, which has led Mr. Young, now almost 40 years old, to become a staunch human rights advocate, and a fierce supporter of the principle of restorative justice, which the Government is pushing as means of resolving conflicts in communities. As such, he has taken advantage of the training programme offered by the Justice Ministry to become a facilitator in the practice of restorative justice in Fletcher’s Land, where he still resides.
Mr. Young was one of 39 awardees at the Restorative Justice Facilitators graduation held on February 18 at the Altamont Court Hotel in St. Andrew. He received the ‘Most Vocal Restorative Justice Facilitator’ prize, which recognises individuals, who apply the principles of restorative justice in all aspects of their lives, from in the home to the community and even at work.
“I think I received this award because of my eagerness to address the critical issues, not shying away from contentious arguments and really putting forward restorative justice in areas where persons are not so comfortable in addressing,” Mr. Young shares with JIS News, while gazing proudly on the award he received.
“I am a sworn in Justice of the Peace and the Ministry needed to have more of us… (JPs)… in the programme, I was chosen. There is no restorative justice centre in Fletcher’s Land so I attended training for the programme in the community of Trench Town. I embrace the principles of restorative justice to repair relationships,” he expresses.
Mr. Young is hopeful and believes that restorative justice will bring about positive changes in Jamaica, to address crime and violence. “It can be seen as a crime reduction strategy. Restorative justice will help to stem the flow of revenge because both the offender and the victim will sit down and they will discuss the situation, and the underlying issues will be addressed.
“Out of that dialogue, a solution can be arrived at that will help both parties to be a winner, as restorative justice enables all the stakeholders to be winners. It is critical for persons to identify the difference that the restorative justice process provides, as it is different from the traditional court system,” he says.
He adds that often, when persons use the traditional court system, they do not feel as though justice has been served and they tend to take the law into their own hands. “Restorative justice gives the victim a voice…we look at restoring and repairing relationships with both parties,” he notes.
Mr. Young tells JIS News that he passes on the principles of restorative justice to the inmates that he works with through the ‘Stand up for Jamaica’ human rights organisation. The group seeks to rehabilitate and reintegrate inmates into the society, through remedial Mathematics and English classes, as well as providing skills training through a computer centre, radio station, a band, among other activities.
Mr. Young says the inmates have created positively to the restorative justice principles. “There is currently an inmate, who is repentant and is interested in going through the restorative justice process with the victim’s family, however the family is reluctant, but we need to give them time. I am still proud of this inmate because it is very hard to get persons to take responsibility for their actions. He is still hopeful that the family will agree to have the session,” he shares.
He is urging Jamaicans to embrace restorative justice, to bring about a peaceful society. “When you respond negatively to your offender… it is not only hurting the offender, it hurts you as well as many others and Jamaica at large. When crime goes up, you are hindering the country from getting direct foreign investment, which is critical to releasing us from the current economic situation. Jobs will be lost and the Government will not have that revenue from those lost jobs to develop social programmes to empower you and thousands of others,” he argues.
Restorative Justice is a process whereby all the parties with a stake in a particular offence come together to resolve collectively, how to deal with the aftermath of the offence. It focuses on holding the offender accountable in a more meaningful way and achieving a sense of healing for both the victim and the community.
By Shelly-Ann Irving March 3, 2014 Source: jis.gov.jm