curbcrime

COSTAATT Use of Force Seminar.

In prison abuse, restorative justice on October 31, 2014 at 8:58 am

On 30th October, 2014 the College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago (COSTAATT) staged the final of its 2014 public seminars. The seminar focused on the thorny issue of “use of force” by persons in the Police and Prisons Services of Trinidad and Tobago.

The seminar was hosted by COSTAATT’s Department of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies which is the successor body to the Joint Services Staff College (JSSC). The JSSC was established in 1978 and tasked with ensuring that members of the protective services and Defence Force had the necessary professional and technical competencies to manage the agencies which fell under their purview.

Organised by Department Chair, Kirwin Pyle-Williams and moderated by lecturer, Wayne De Landro the seminar took the form of a 6-member panel discussion addressing various aspects of the use of force by police officers, prisons officers and the impact such incidents had on the community, with particular focus on the “crime hotspot” communities of Sea Lots and Laventille.

Panellists included Acting Inspector Espinoza of the Police Service who sits on the Use of Force Committee; Ms. Margaret Sampson-Browne of the Victim and Witness Support Unit; Retired Superintendent of Prisons Martin; CURB President and Attorney-at-Law Adrian Alexander; Criminologist Renee Cummings and Community Activist Hal Greaves.

The presentations were thoroughly researched, professionally delivered and well received by the audience which comprised mainly students of the Department of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies from the various COSTAATT campuses.

CURB’s Adrian Alexander was asked to address the issue of Use of Force in Juvenile Detention facilities and was able to outline to the audience the provisions of the Prisons Rules and the Young Offenders Detention Act and Regulations which cover disciplinary offences and punishments for young male offenders at the Youth Training Centre.

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He compared these provisions with subsequent international instruments such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 1990 UN Havana Rules for treating with Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty and the 2008 European Union Guidelines of a similar nature.

In plotting a way forward to bring the Young Offenders Detention Act into the 21st century, Mr. Alexander urged for a phased approach. He advocated for the recruitment and training of officers specifically in youth development, equipping such officers with skill sets to enable them to facilitate restorative justice initiatives to address disciplinary offences which may arise at the institution, and allowing the officers time to master those skill sets by having a parallel system of restorative justice alongside the current punishment structure before phasing out the latter.

During the Question and Answer segment, Mr Alexander was asked why he thinks the restorative justice philosophy had not taken root with the public in Trinidad and Tobago to a great extent.

He replied that the recent Restorative Justice Conference revealed the degree to which there had been a grave misunderstanding of the meaning of key terminology wherein restorative initiatives were mislabelled as restorative justice initiatives. He highlighted that true restorative justice is victim centred and the public would be more responsive to that as a selling point than the past strategies of touting restorative justice principally as a means to reduce crime and re-offending.

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