Prison Service launches victim offender mediation initiative

Port of Spain: The Ministry of National Security continues to support initiatives that address the needs of victims of crime, promote healing and mitigate reoffending.

This was the assurance given on Tuesday November 05, 2019 by Minister of National Security the Honourable Stuart R. Young M.P. as he delivered the feature address at the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service Graduation Ceremony and Official Launch of the Sycamore Tree Victim Offender Mediation Initiative. The event took place at the Prisons Sports Club in Arouca.

Minister Young described the initiative as a noteworthy example of the Ministry of National Security’s focus on rehabilitation, reintegration and the promotion of a system that is restorative. He underscored that the initiative complements the positive programmes being conducted behind prison walls, aimed at rehabilitating and reforming offenders. He noted, “This particular pilot project is designed to help offenders understand the impact of their crimes and to encourage them to repair the damage caused. Importantly, it aids victims in the healing process and gives them the assurance that they are not forgotten”.

The Minister commended the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service and all other organisations involved for their efforts in bringing the pilot project to fruition and gave the undertaking to support continued installments of the initiative.

Commissioner of Prisons Mr. Gerard Wilson stated that a critical part of a Restorative Justice System is creating a forum to bring victims and offenders together in conversation to allow for the ventilation of hurt, expression of remorse, restitution, forgiveness and peace for both parties. The Commissioner said that the Sycamore Tree Pilot Project was the Prison Service's landmark effort to formally include the victim in the mediation process.

During the administration of the eight-week mediation programme, ‘unrelated’ or ‘surrogate’ offenders sat before victims of crime so that the victims could express their feelings to the offenders on how the crime committed has affected them. Offenders received the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and make amends with the victims.

The Sycamore Tree Victim Offender Mediation Pilot Project is a collaborative initiative between the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service; the European Union in Trinidad and Tobago, which provided training and funding for the project; and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, which provided technical assistance.

Four (4) persons - two (2) victims and two (2) offenders - graduated after successfully participating in the programme. The participants described the mediation sessions as helpful for providing some measure of healing and closure.

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