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Restorative justice will change way justice is dispensed in Amerindian communities – Sukhai – Guyana Times

Although there have been, and there still are, issues with the administration of justice in Amerindian communities, Amerindian Affairs Minister Pauline Sukhai is optimistic that these issues would be resolved as a result of the inclusion of restorative justice in the judicial system.
During her speech on Monday, at commencement of this restorative justice training for toshaos, prison officers, probation officers, and other officials at the Guyana Police Force (GPF) Officers Mess in Georgetown, she expressed this belief.
Restorative justice, as described by the Canadian judicial system, is “an approach to justice that seeks to repair harm by providing an opportunity for those harmed and those who take responsibility for the harm to communicate about and address their needs in the aftermath of a crime.”

Amerindian leaders, Prison Officers, Probation Officers, and other officials participating in a two-day training on restorative justice (PC: Mohabir Anil Nandlall, SC MP/Facebook/January 29, 2024)

Parliament has recently enacted Restorative Justice legislation as a measure to overcome prison overcrowding by reducing pre-trial detention, reducing recidivism, and increasing the use of alternative sentencing, among other things. With the passage of the Act came establishment of a Restorative Justice Centre at 341 East Street, South Cummingsburg, Georgetown.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, making a point during his presentation

Accessing the legal system
Sukhai noted that it can be challenging for Indigenous people to access the legal system, because there are no courthouses in some areas. But, she said, Government has made attempts to create courts of law in a number of interior regions.
Though this might not seem significant to others, she reasoned, it is important for people who might have found themselves in conflict with the law; because, with the opening of new courts across the country, their day in court is now far more accessible.
Rather than relying solely on incarceration, she explained, the modern approach of alternative sentencing seeks to provide a wider range of options for offenders, to rehabilitate them and reduce recidivism rates.
“And our Government continues to address this matter. The Restorative Justice Bill was tabled and passed to allow courts to make orders outside of the usual punitive orders; thereby bringing to bear that alternative approach,” she said.
According to Sukhai, sentencing for persons found guilty of petty offences does not always mean a trip to prison, since courts are now ordering offenders to do community service.

Amerindian Affairs Minister Pauline Sukhai

She pointed out that this practice is widespread in other nations, and community involvement in advancing restorative justice is crucial in Guyana, since, frequently, people in the community look forward to seeing offenders go to jail.
“While it is not fully entrenched in the psyche of villagers, villages, and communities, this will happen. It is happening in our country already. So, restorative justice, while not a new concept, now has an identity in our laws, and the correct application is what we have to monitor,” she explained.
The Amerindian Affairs Minister conveyed gratitude for introducing this concept to Indigenous leaders, as these leaders must address several offences under the Amerindian Act.

Minor offences
Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, SC, explained that the concept of restorative justice is limited to certain minor offences that can be handled in the community and provide direct rehabilitative intervention. Accordingly, crimes like robbery, manslaughter, murder, sexual offenses, offences against minors, and other severe crimes are not covered by restorative justice.
He emphasised that the strategy can succeed only with community members’ cooperation, and asked for their help to ensure the programme’s success. Thanks to funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for the Support for the Criminal Justice System Project, the Government of Guyana has been strengthening its capacity for restorative justice. (G1)

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