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Penal system must deliver justice—Arbishop

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The greatest wish of an individual who has been wronged is to have justice and fairness meted out to him/her.

This was the sentiment expressed by Archbishop Jason Gordon yesterday, as he articulated the Catholic perspective on Restorative Justice and what role it could play in society.

Participating in a panel discussion themed Understanding and Promoting Restorative Justice in T&T, at the Faculty of Law, UWI, St Augustine, the Archbishop acknowledged that when an individual is denied fairness and justice, “The society cannot work and cannot work well.”

Hosted by the Catholic Commission for Social Justice in collaboration with the UWI Faculty of Law, the symposium focused on how restorative justice could help to make incarcerated people become better individuals who could contribute positively to society once released.

As the first speaker, the Archbishop challenged the audience to ask themselves, “What kind of society do we want to become?”

He said, “Until we can answer that question, I think it is going to be really, really hard to settle all the many social challenges we are facing because the social challenges we face have come about because we do not have the traditions, the customs, the laws, the sensitivity to settle the things we are negotiating now, things we didn’t have to negotiate before because they were refereed for us by our parents who would set whatever they thought the law was or the justice was.”

Gordon said as master of our own houses, people had to explore new ways of doing things and setting new traditions.

Referring to the current penal system, he said it was one which was not about justice but retribution in some form or fashion.

He said in T&T, teenagers who entered the penal system often ended up graduating from a petty criminal after going into the remand section where they would earn tertiary-level qualifications but not before gaining a “circle of friends” who would have taught him how to do real criminal activity.

Gordon said, “Therefore, it has not helped society by putting this person in remand.”


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