On September 30 and October 1, 2021, the Virtual Technical Working Group (TWG) Justice Conference convened Caribbean justice sector officials to share best practices on increasing access to the justice, adapting to COVID 19 challenges, improving citizen security through data collection, and developing strategies to reduce court backlogs caused by the pandemic.
The United States Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) collaborated with the Caribbean Community Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM IMPACS) to host this conference. The two-day conference was implemented by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), implementer of the INL-funded Caribbean Anti-Crime Program. The conference was hosted on Zoom in 3 languages: English, Spanish and Dutch.
Over 200 justice sector professionals participated in the conference from The Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. Conference attendees included members of Judiciaries, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Office of the Attorney Generals, Public Defender Offices, and Bar Associations from across CARICOM Member States and British Overseas Territories. Donor organizations in attendance included The British High Commission (Barbados), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Pan American Development Fund, and The Caribbean Court of Justice – Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) Project (Canadian funded).
Caribbean and United States experts conducted presentations that featured model programs on restorative and community justice programs by Jamaica and the Dominican Republic; demonstrated the use of technology to assist court users and to conduct hearings and bench trials by the judiciaries of Trinidad & Tobago and Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court; examined lessoned learned on Guyana’s return to jury trials despite COVID 19 challenges; highlighted the need for collecting data to strengthen evidence-based decision making for citizen security by the USAID/UNDP CariSECURE project; and shared strategies to manage court backlogs caused by the pandemic by NCSC. On day 2 of the conference, attendees participated in an “Open Mic” session which provided an opportunity to highlight best practices in their respective jurisdictions and to discuss challenges to the administration of justice in the Caribbean. The conference was successful in building capacity and creating networking opportunities for jurisdictions to promote duplication of model programs such as regional restorative justice initiatives, use of technology, and data collection.