Restorative Solutions in AnguillaSaturday 15th May 2021
Restorative Solutions C.I.C. was invited by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Overseas Territories Prison Reform Department) to visit Anguilla, which is an Eastern Caribbean island with a population of approximately 15,000 and a prison population averaging 55.
The purpose of the visit was to assist in training practitioners and to enable the development and implementation of a restorative justice programme appropriate to the Prison and Probation Service.
The Probation Service in Anguilla was set up in 2005, with just two staff, and saw the introduction of a parole system only in 2013. The speed and efficacy of this service reflects the commitment and abilities of those directing its construction and the staff who are making it work.
Director of Practice Delivery at Restorative Solutions, Tony Walker, delivered the agreed programmes together with his wife Kathryn, who has many years of experience of delivering restorative justice training and of working in prison and probation settings.
By the time of the project commencement there representatives from the British Virgin Islands, (Tortola) Prison, Bermuda (Magistrate), Montserrat (Chief Magistrate), Cayman Islands (Prison and Probation staff). A further six attendees came from Anguilla (three each from the Prison and Probation Service).
The visit commenced with a meeting with Chief Justice Benjamin and Justice Benjamin – not related - both of whom have been trained in, and utilise, Restorative Justice in their Courts. Time was then spent with Commissioner of Police Proctor, and Deputy Commissioner Proctor, where we gave a well-received briefing session on Restorative Solutions' work in using Restorative Approaches in Policing, Neighbourhoods, and the Police Complaints system. We then met with Jocelyn Johnston the Chief Probation Officer to plan the timetable in more detail.
Later that afternoon we facilitated a presentation and discussion session for the whole of the Probation Department and with Prison Superintendent Mr Gumb.
We then met with Shariffa Wallace, Rehabilitation and Development Co-ordinator for the Prison. Shariffa and her prison staff had organised two groups of nine prisoners, therefore eighteen men, five of whom are serving serving life sentences, for us to meet with. We began a sharing of information around what restorative justice is, what it means for those taking part in restorative processes and to introduce the thought that they might consider some personal involvement in the Anguillan programme.
Three prisoners in the group had already indicated that they might be willing to meet their victims during other prison run programmes. Although some inmates remained fairly quiet throughout our conversations that day; others asked questions and reacted to what we shared with interest both during the time we were there and later, on an individual basis with officers.
On Tuesday we began the three-day training programme at the Anguilla Community College. Twenty participants attend day one; eight of whom would not be continuing with full practitioner training but had an interest in learning something about our work and practice. They were presented with Foundation Course Certificates.
We had twelve more participants than originally planned continuing to complete the whole three days, fortunately, having two trainers
meant that we could facilitate this efficiently.
What transpired was one of the most engaging and enjoyable training events we have ever had the privilege to be involved with.
We were not only discussing Restorative practice or delivering training but engaging in how to implement in Prisons and Probation Services on five different Islands with unprecedented enthusiasm and open mindedness.
The sessions were full and discussions continued over breaks and into the evenings. Visitors from the other islands took the opportunity to see each other’s courts and departments making the most of a chance to share and learn good practice.
In the evening dinner was enjoyed in beautiful surroundings but the talk was full of the course and the use of Restorative Approaches.
The three days passed in what seemed like moments, the Chief Magistrate dropped in for a while and other Probation staff happened by to be involved as far as time allowed them.
A formal ceremony was arranged to highlight the significance and importance of the introduction of these approaches to the Islands that Anguillian Officials felt it deserved. The event was attended by the Permanent Secretary, Health and Social Development, Dr. Bonnie Richardson-Lake.
The ceremony opened with an incredibly moving and appropriately inspiring Invocation by Lindsay Richardson, Chaplain Counsellor from the Prison, and a training attendee. He talked of giving thanks for the opportunity that these approaches “can bring to our islands and community” and asked that we all be given the guidance and support needed to move forward in a positive and helpful way.
Following the invocation, Dr. Lake, Mrs Brooks Morancie (Assistant Chief Probation Officer) and Tony Walker addressed the group individually and were recorded by a journalist from Radio Anguilla for broadcast later. Presentation of certificates completed the event.
On Friday and the team sat with the Anguillian contingent to review cases from both the Prison and Probation Service. This included three cases of burglary and two cases of murder, both of which had incredibly complicating factors. A case of child abandonment gave us a real insight into the difficulties of the criminal justice system there. We also reviewed one case of unlawful sexual intercourse and one case of rape and the serious concerns attached to the rapist’s imminent release.
On Monday morning we returned to the prison and began with an interview conducted by the Superintendent to discuss our work
and review the training.
We then individually supported newly trained facilitators to begin the process of preparation with prisoners. Each session was more than one hour long and during this time we assisted staff to outline fully to prisoners the restorative process and what that might mean for them in relation to meeting their victims. This enabled the new practitioners to begin this role with more confidence.
What is of paramount consideration for restorative practice on Anguilla is that it is such a small island and there is virtually no anonymity. Anyone leaving prison will almost certainly encounter someone affected by his or her crime.
One inmate had committed a burglary; the victim had heard of his imminent release and is terrified of him. This man feels strongly that despite his discomfort and fears that he should meet with the victim and try to begin to make amends for the harm he has caused her. The facilitator will progress this to the next stage.
A young man was convicted of murder eight years ago when he was only sixteen years old. It was a gang related killing that he is struggling to really accept responsibility for. However, during a lengthy conversation covering many issues and aspects to his crime, his responsibility and whom he has harmed, progress was made and he is willing to engage in the process. We repeated this process with two other prisoners on Tuesday morning.
A young man convicted of a commercial burglary is enthusiastic to participate and another serving a sentence for ‘handling’ would like
the opportunity to meet the victim of his crime.
We left the prison feeling that everything we could possibly do to begin the process had been done and that we had gone as far as possible to equip the new facilitators with the support and information necessary to proceed with and progress practice. We will of course continue to be involved from a distance. We assured the head of rehabilitation and her staff of this in a final meeting.
Interestingly we had a short discussion with Christina Scott (Governor of the Island) who was making her monthly visit to the prison and were reassured to hear her positive responses to the work we were doing there.
It was wonderful to hear that the Chief Magistrate of Montserrat had immediately included a restorative element to her sentencing the day she returned to court.
Our final preparation and support session took place at the probation service with an officer who is faced with an extremely complex and harrowing case of murder. The parolee offender has asked to meet with the children of his victim. Again we advised and action planned the stages of preparation and potential obstacles to the process being appropriate to that case. We felt that the officer could well progress the case to an eventual meeting.
We left the Island feeling that what we had shared had been listened to, considered, and would be well used and implemented by enthusiastic and very capable people. We will be keeping in contact and look forward to news of progression and outcomes.
We have been told that one new trainee is preparing to use a restorative approach relating to an incident between two members of staff and a meeting is being arranged. We were later informed us that the representative from The Virgin Islands attended court immediately on his return and made the request that four offenders be required to take part in restorative meetings as part of their sentence.