“Restorative Justice is not new but the new thinking is to develop good relationships and to restore a sense of community in the justice system, families, the workplace and schools.”
This view was shared by Clinical and Educational Psychologist, Dr Margaret Nakhid-Chatoor, one of three panellists who spoke at a panel discussion on ‘Restorative Justice at home and school’. The event was held September 25 by Fr Ian Taylor and the Ministry of Consolation (MOC) of St Charles RC Church, Tunapuna.
Dr Nakhid-Chatoor emphasised how punishment “excludes, humiliates and does not create empathy”. She said, “It works superficially for a time and does not create a connection; it stigmatises and labels” and added that those who are excluded will seek out the company of others who are also excluded from mainstream society. As a consequence, there is a negative subculture within the schools and prisons that continue to perpetuate negative behaviours.
Pointing the way forward, Dr Nakhid-Chatoor recommended the “restorative approach”. She urged participants to begin this in their homes. She said when children’s behaviour is inappropriate, “view them as good persons who have made bad decisions; assume that change is possible and that they can take responsibility for bringing about that change; let them suggest their own solution…Give them a choice usually out of three to choose how they should be disciplined. Remind them ‘You are not bad; what you did was bad’ and help them to understand how their action/s affected others.”
Attorney-at-Law and Certified Mediator, Janice George who led the day’s discourse, spoke on ‘Care and protection of the child in the family and children’s court’.
George underscored the rights of the child, indicating that it is an overriding objective in matters such as divorce proceedings before the court. She noted that there was wide global commitment to advance children’s rights and explained that Restorative Justice was a new paradigm in Trinidad and Tobago that relied on the co-ordination of all relevant agencies including the Children’s Court and probation officers. “Interest in and care of the child is paramount,” she commented.
Cara Singh of the Judicial Research Counsel dealt with ‘Efforts at restoring our community’ which helped participants understand how unacceptable behaviour can hurt “ourselves, others and the society”.
She also touched on peer resolution saying children are held accountable for their misconduct by their peers. Singh also detailed services provided by the Children’s Court to help families.- Manuelita Gomez Thomas