Drive for children to choose reconciliation over retribution
A process to develop Malta’s restorative justice model for children starts today to empower young people to favour dialogue and reconciliation over retribution.
Driven by the Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society, this initiative has received the backing of Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis and Education Minister Justyne Caruana.
Speaking during today’s press conference, Dr Zammit Lewis said the traditional criminal justice system was often criticised as too formal and punitive.
“This is why the government, together with the MFWS and the Education Ministry, is working to modernise the system in a way that addresses the disconnect between the community and institutions. We plan to introduce a series of restorative justice programmes that will have an impact on the criminal justice process.
“What we are announcing today will empower students to resolve conflicts by themselves or in small groups. Fortunately, there are the resources to train educators in the area of restorative justice and develop a plan,” he said.
Dr Zammit Lewis added that he believed schools were the foundation of society and the key to building a stronger tomorrow.
Addressing those present, MFWS chair Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said: “We want to see a shift in society’s mentality by focusing on children and empowering them with the tools to improve their skills to better communicate, empathise, listen and speak in such a way that will ultimately help in conflict resolution and in understanding each other’s differences.”
Ms Coleiro Preca, who is also Eurochild president, said the first step in this process was listening to the Children’s Council to gauge their views and experiences.
This will lead to the creation of Restorative Practice Circles, which will provide a learning opportunity for students to build social emotional skills and lead to better emotional literacy.
Education Minister Justyne Caruana said this was another initiative involving children through education.
“This is an important initiative, especially when considering the new reality brought about by the worldwide pandemic. This exercise will have a direct impact on our children, helping them in their development, driving a mentality shift, and most importantly, making them better citizens of our country.”
MFWS has also sought the expertise of anthropologist Susan Hirsch, a professor in conflict resolution at George Mason University in Washington DC, to guide them in implementing this project and drafting the Malta Model for Restorative Justice for Children. Prof. Hirsch is running a similar programme in the US.
Holistic, multidisciplinary restorative justice programmes — that emphasise repairing the harm caused by criminal behaviour — have led to promising results when it came to reducing adverse effects of anti-social behaviour among children. Children involved in such programmes abroad have also shown fewer tendencies towards violence, both in the community and the home.
Ms Coleiro Preca added: “Investing in children in this way, will lead to a sustainable and long-term mentality shift for the whole of society.”