Oireachtas gives thumbs-up to Restorative Justice schemes

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Sunday, October 28th, 2012
Community

The head of a Newry-based community safety group said this week a “compelling case” had been made for restorative justice in a joint presentation to TDs, MLAs and Senators in the Oireachtas.

Ewan Morgan Co-ordinator CRJI with the County Louth Integration of Target Communities Advisory group

Ewan Morgan of Community Restorative Justice Ireland said that elected representatives from all over the island had endorsed the restorative work of community organisations.

“CRJI’s Director Harry Maguire and Debbie Watters of Alternatives addressed the Joint Dáil Committee. They talked about their work in communities, schools and in the criminal justice system in Belfast, Derry, Newry/ South Armagh, North Down and in County Louth,” said Ewan Morgan.

“There were TDs, Senators, MPs and MLAs at the meeting from across the political spectrum. Harry Maguire briefed the elected representatives about our mediation, conferencing, youth programmes and intensive restorative support for young people and adults.”

Morgan continued, “He told them how restorative approaches empower communities to tackle the issues, which underpin crime and anti-social behaviour. He also referred to a number of recent, innovative engagements carried out in county Louth where CRJI Newry/Armagh is the lead partner, along with Louth County Council, in delivering ‘Building positive relations at the local level’.”

“This is part of a programme established and funded by Co. Louth Peace & Reconciliation Partnership under Peace III.”

Committee Chairman Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh said the presentations were uplifting.

“Our committee heard refreshing and uplifting presentations on this fresh approach to justice,” he said.

“Both Mr Maguire and Ms Watters spoke of their organisations’ respective journeys to becoming firmly embedded in the policing and justice systems in Northern Ireland. Both organisations also partner with housing, health and social affairs authorities in their work.”

“A compelling case was made on the economics of the community-based restorative justice approach, which was a small fraction of the cost of keeping the offender in prison.

“The recidivism rates within programme participants was 8 to 9 percent within a year of completion of the programme compared to 50 to 60 percent of those offenders incarcerated in mainstream prisons.

He added, “So not only is this model more cost effective than conventional methods, it also keeps young people and adults out of a prison system that damages them.”

“This humane and non-punitive approach of restorative justice to address issues of conflict, crime and anti-social behaviour has relevance to tackling crime and its causes in communities across Ireland.”

Louth Senator Jim D’Arcy spoke at the end of the Dáil session and said he was very interested in the contributions of Mr Maguire and Ms Watters.

In conclusion, Mr Morgan said, “As part of the Co. Louth Peace & Reconciliation Partnership’s vision of facilitating dialogue and addressing community tensions, we have organized workshops throughout the county including one to take place on Saturday 3rd November in the Carrickdale Hotel from 10am – 2pm.

“The workshop will be attended by delegates from the initial contact meetings and statutory bodies.”

For more information on CRJI’s presentation to the Oireachtas and the workshops contact Ewan Morgan on 048 302 66 33 7 or on 0044 7709670793


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