Adequate counselling and justice
It is going to be a long hard road of healing. Take the time you need, and process your grief however you need to, as long as they are healthy releases. I hope all of you have access to counselling.
For many years, counselling has been a taboo in Barbados. I think we have reached the point in our existence where we quickly need to deconstruct that taboo. I never recommend religious-based counselling because it is often glorified evangelism.
Ensure that the professional you find is just that; and even if the person has a church affiliation, ensure that you are not subjected to any one forcing personal beliefs on you in your time of vulnerability. Having an unbiased person to listen to our struggles and help us to rekindle or even develop coping mechanisms is needed.
Barbados is a small place, and with all that is happening we are all affected. Some of us who may not even be directly impacted may be scarred by what is taking place on this island. To hear of daily crime and violence in a big society is jarring; the impact in Barbados is significantly magnified.
Studying at the University of the West Indies, Mona, afforded me some time and friendships which were used to explore Jamaica. I have seen what used to be middle-class housing left empty as owners fled from violence that encroached on their spaces and left them fearing for their lives. Along with the physical considerations of moving a lifetime of possessions and restarting in a new location is the emotional and psychological crisis that is company.
Barbados does not have the land space that Jamaica has. There is nowhere to run. I think it would be easier for us to invest significantly in the drastic remediation that our judicial system needs, as well as examine the supports we need to create within the society to ensure fewer people opt to exist outside “the system”.
One of the women who we learnt lost her life in this country recently is Marcelle Smith. Mrs Smith had been abducted from her home about two weeks ago. According to local media, the person of interest in the case may be connected to other serious crimes. It is alleged the individual was on bail for a previous murder charge.
I am not the first social commentator who has expressed concern about the workings of the judicial system. Queen’s Counsel Andrew Pilgrim has been at pains in various fora to explain the problems, and he obviously has a close-up view.
As with many other things on the island, we are approaching the problems in the judiciary as if we have the luxury of time to create remedies. Any declines in justice do not only disadvantage the families of those seeking justice; they create an overall culture of mistrust in the processes involved in administering that justice.
If there is the perception the law is disproportionately punishing for offences such as the possession of marijuana, but lenient on accused murderers, an environment of frustration is created among the citizenry. This case that seems to play out before us raises other ugly issues in our society as well.
How is a man who is suspected in a cold case murder, on remand for another alleged murder, and also suspected in the rape and beating of yet another woman get bail? Is it that our society still sees rape as the fault of the perpetrator?
Apart from the lengthy delays in the court system, there seem to be further structural difficulties in our crime-fighting mechanism, which hinder authorities in picking up the cues in crime-fighting. Recently, Barbados had seen a lengthy
delay in the autopsy process for a child who had died in suspicious circumstances. Are we seeing a recurrence in the present circumstance?
No charges have yet been laid, although a person of interest is said to be in custody. There seems to be a delay, which I notice to be longer than normal in conducting an autopsy and laying a charge.
The other set of structural difficulties affects how Barbadians perceive justice to be done. If an individual has one case for killing a person in what seemed to be accidental circumstances or perhaps in a heated argument, perhaps bail can be a consideration. However, how does an individual go before a court and receive bail when, even if there is not substantial evidence, there is sufficient speculation to support the individual being a real danger and threat to a society?
Apart from the structural difficulties and backlogs, what exactly is the programme for our lone penal institution? It seems as though there has been a shift in our system to favour the granting of bail and parole as rights of the individual. What then have been the changes we have made to our processes of remediation and support for remand individuals or inmates eligible for parole?
The Prison Rehabilitation Capacity Consultancy: Literacy Testing Pilot Programme at Her Majesty’s Prisons was conducted in January 2010. One of the major findings which gripped the attention of the citizenry was that about half of our prison population could be considered functionally illiterate. How are we remediating prisoners to ensure they do not return to a life of crime simply because they do not have the necessary skills
to participate fully in society?
Had the agricultural programme at the prison ever been started again after it was moved from Station Hill?
I do not know the answers to the questions; but I do know that even if the answers are the best we could hope for, there are some criminals who cannot be remediated and the public needs to be protected from them. An individual whose name keeps coming up with respect to the most gruesome crimes against women seems to be that type of criminal who once captured should never be allowed to re-enter society.
Are we sure our society is better served without a sexual offenders’ registry? Do we fully understand that men who perpetrate crimes against women do not do so because women “deserve it”?
We shall await the outcome, because I think we all know this is no ordinary circumstance which has unfolded before us.
(Marsha Hinds-Layne is a full-time mummy and part-time lecturer in communications at the University of the West Indies.