Maltese youngsters will be encouraged to choose dialogue and reconciliation over retribution through a restorative justice programme launched today.
Restorative justice refers to a system of criminal justice that focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large.
The initiative is being led by the Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society (MFWS), the Justice Ministry and the Education Ministry.
Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis said the government, together with the MFWS, had decided to embark on the project in order to address the “disconnect between the country’s institutions and the community”.
“We plan to introduce a series of restorative justice programmes that will have an impact on the criminal justice process,” he said, adding that the present system was often criticised for being too punitive.
“What we are empowering 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 to develop a plan,” Zammit Lewis said.
MFWS chair Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said the foundation wanted to bring about a shift in the society’s mentality by “focusing 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 the conflict resolution and in understanding each other’s differences”.
The initiative will see Restorative Practice Circles created that will provide a “learning opportunity” for students to build emotional skills, thus leading to better emotional literacy.
Education Minister Justyne Caruana stressed that the programme would have a direct impact on children, making them better citizens.
The programme has been developed with the assistance of anthropologist Susan Hirsch, a professor of conflict resolution at George Mason University in Washington DC.
Such programmes have led to promising results in reducing anti-social behaviour among children.
“Investing in children in this way will lead to a sustainable and long-term mentality shift for the whole country,” Coleiro Preca concluded.
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