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Guyanese being trained in reforming instead of punishing offenders

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 March 2021, 12:41 by Denis Chabrol

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is supporting Guyana in training teachers, probation officers and community leaders in reforming offenders because, according to Attorney General Anil Nandlall, traditional means of punishment have not been working.

“It has been found that the traditional theories and methods of dealing with criminal behaviour, violent conduct  have not yielded the results anticipated,” he said at the opening of a workshop to train facilitators in restorative justice as part of the IDB-funded support for the criminal justice system programme.

Those targeted in Wednesday’s workshop were Amerindian village leaders known locally as Toshaos. Mr. Nandlall charged the Amerindian leaders to return to their communities and practice their techniques.

Teachers and probation officers, religious leaders, officers of the court are also being targeted for training. He announced that the Ministry of Human Services has been asked to make available all of its probation officers for training in restorative justice.

He also announced that the Ministry of Education has been encouraged to have all teachers trained so that young people could be targeted so that “the next generation’ would be able to settle disputes in the “formative years” of children. “We believe that if we are able to plant that seed there when those children go up, it will have a positive impact in keeping them away from the prisons; that is the ultimate objective of this programme,” he added.

Mr. Nandlall said training of trainers would be an integral part of the plan to reduce dependence on foreign consultants.

Mr. Nandlall said the restorative justice programme aims to reverse centuries-old high levels of criminal behaviour. “In fact, there has been an increase or an upswing in these criminal atrocities,” he added.

The Attorney General says behavioural experts are instead promoting restorative justice that seeks to assess the cause of homicides and address social issues such as poverty,  prevalence of domestic and other forms of violence in families and try to prevent other incidents; bring victims and offenders together to “melt that ice of hate” and non-communication and together reflect on what caused the violence.

The facilitators were expected to showcase the benefits of restorative justice in other parts of the world.

The Restorative Justice Programme dates back to 2018 when experts began collecting data from various stakeholders.