Academic journal article Journal of the Institute of Justice and International Studies

Restorative Justice: An Alternative Response to Juvenile Delinquency in Barbados

Academic journal article Journal of the Institute of Justice and International Studies

Restorative Justice: An Alternative Response to Juvenile Delinquency in Barbados

Article excerpt

The Barbados is the only country in the Caribbean with a top ranking in the United Nations' Human Development Index (HDI), yet crimes involving youth and drugs are increasing in the country. Despite the 11% reduction in reported crimes between 2007 and 2010, half of the 2962 persons charged with crimes in 2010 were between the ages of 16 and 30. Growth and development in Barbados have coincided with increased fear of crime and the criminalization of young people as indicated by the Report of the National Commission on Law and Order (2004):

Over the last twenty-five years Barbados has been experiencing an unusually high number of serious and violent crimes, with murder, armed robberies and reckless violence among the youth becoming quite alarming. This has been accompanied by excessive involvement in the drug culture, both in supporting transshipment operation and in the increasing use of illicit drugs across all sections of the society. Perhaps the most troublesome feature is the frequency of drive-by shootings and the uncontrolled violence among drug dealers. This environment has resulted in a considerable fear of crime in residential communities and the business sector, (p. 84)

In addition to revealing concerns about juvenile delinquency, crime, and violence in various sectors of Barbadian society, the report goes on to state that the fear of crime in Barbadian society necessitates an effective social response:

[Although official statistics suggest that in recent years there has been some reduction in the reports of overall crime, general public perception is that there has been an increase in violent and odious crimes. Thus it is the heinous nature of the crimes now being committed which is seen as problematic and in need of urgent remedial action, (p. 84)

This statement calls into question the meaning of the phrase "remedial action" in the Barbadian context. The traditional response to crime has been retributive or punitive in nature, yet movement toward a restorative approach to juvenile justice has emerged as an alternative. Whereas retributive justice mechanisms in the adult and juvenile justice systems are marked by punishment, social isolation, incarceration, marginalization, and stigmatization of offenders, restorative justice departs from conventional models by viewing crime as a violation of individuals and social relationships that must be repaired ideally by engaging the offender, victim, and community in reparatory processes (Van Ness & Strong, 2002; Eglash 1977; Zehr, 1995). International studies offer varying perspectives on the potential of restorative justice to benefit young persons who have caused harm, the persons harmed, the community, and society at large (Moore, 1995; Kilchling & Loschnig-Gspandel, 2000; Griffiths, 1999; Roach, 2000; McElrea, 1998; Umbreit & Bradshaw, 1997; Walther, 2000; Morris & Young, 2000; Nelson, 2000; Bazemore, 1999; Umbreit & Coates, 1992; Umbreit & Greenwood, 1998). Collectively, these international studies suggest that to effectively explore the topic of restorative justice and juvenile delinquency, assessments of the unique contextual circumstances that contribute to (or impede) successful program outcomes are needed.

This study explores the possibilities and limits of restorative justice as an alternative response to youth crime and delinquency in Barbados, and specifically examines what aspects of an existing restorative justice program are perceived to be effective at mitigating risk factors in the Barbadian. To orient the reader to juvenile delinquency in Barbados, this article begins with a discussion of the factors that contribute to youth crime and delinquency in the country.

Factors That Contribute To Youth Crime And Delinquency In Barbados

Barbados is a country that places a high standard on educational achievement, as is evident in the high literacy rate (99.7) among the population and the widely promoted goal of having "one university graduate per household," (Gilkes, 2012, n. …

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