We must own legal system, says Comissiong

If we are to engage in self-repair, we must own the legal system, says attorney-at-law David Comissiong.

He made this observation last night during a panel discussion on the topic: Self Reparations: Repairing the Damage at the Spirit Bond Mall, the City.

Comissiong said: “When we look at the legal system we must see ourselves. We must see our Police Force, our law courts and our system of justice. If we continue to see a legal system that is the product of the cultural ethos of the dominance of Britain and Europe, then we perpetuate the cultural and psychological damage that was done to us during colonialism. We then want to look at the laws which still bear their colonial origin. We ask that they be removed.”

Taking a look at the persons who come before the criminal justice system, Comissiong said: “Many of the persons who come before the criminal justice system come from a background of the alienation, the poverty, the marginalization, the psychological damage that was inflicted on them and their communities during centuries of slavery and colonialism and the holdovers from that period.

“Therefore we must understand that the colonial justice system was all about punishment. In a regime that seeks to repair damage, the criminal justice should be aimed at being much more rehabilitative and much more redemptive. It should be seeking to give support and assistance to persons who come a background of that kind of damage and deprivation,” Comissiong said.

He pointed out that while our criminal system was adversarial, the Cuban system was investigative, pointing out that under that system, officials try to find out why the offender committed the crime and psychologists were part of the process.

The attorney-at-law suggested that Barbadians examine the Cuban criminal justice system which sought to rehabilitate offenders.

He said: “The Cuban system has an individualized approach to rehabilitation. After the initial orientation programme, the prisoner is assigned to a group called the detachment of approximately 80 inmates supervised by a rehabilitation counsellor. Civilians and prison officials also work directly with the prisoner. Each detachment elects a council that presents the concerns of the detachment to the prison management. The prisoner is provided with educational programmes learning skills if needed, courses in history and the sciences. Prisoners who have the requisite education may work as teachers within the prison.”

Comissiong noted that under the Cuban criminal justice system there were rights to conjugal visits and accommodation is provided for the couple.

One Response to We must own legal system, says Comissiong

  1. BREWSTER February 28, 2014 at 4:19 am

    I agree that some thought should be given to the Cuban system. It is much better to find out the underlying problem as to why crime is committed in the first place and try to solve the problem from the root. The UK does not in no way or form invest in rehabilitation and continues to oppress only. Prisoners should have guidance, re-education and then be put back into society with the necessary monitoring. Some serious offenders or repeat offenders with no alternative must serve time behind bars, but that time should be spent on an internal programme of some kind. Those on petty crime should assist the country with menial jobs such as in agriculture and assisting the government in keeping the country clean and tidy or warning the young people about what life is like inside and how they can avoid spending time in prison.


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