A more pro-active crime-fighting strategy

 I stand accused before you

I have no tears to cry

And you will never break me

Till the day I die.

 

These cold, defiant words, apparently directed at the justice system by a criminal, are among the opening lines of a 1980s pop hit entitled A Criminal Mind, that was written, recorded and performed by the Canadian artiste, Lawrence Gowan.

 It is unclear what motivated Gowan to pen these lyrics but his general treatment of the subject does convey the impression that he was attempting to explain and provide insight into a perplexing subject which has fascinated human beings from time immemorial.

Specifically, why some persons develop a mindset which drives them to commit crime, especially the heinous, violent type — like some of what we are witnessing in Barbados and across the Caribbean today — that outrages human sensibility, especially when the result is the unfortunate death of another human being.

 Perhaps the answer may be related to our socialization as children which more or less determines the kind of persons that we will grow up to be. This process, which involves inputs from the home, the community and certain institutions like the church and the school, defines certain behaviours as good and others bad. It inculcates in us that good behaviours are generally to be encouraged and rewarded while bad behaviours are to be reprimanded and, in some cases, punished with varying degrees of severity.

 Barbados is a society which has a fixation with meting out harsh punishment to offenders. Listening to public debate sometimes, it comes across as if offenders, and this is not meant to play down their crimes, are no longer human beings who like the rest of us are also made in the image of God. Criminals are not born; they are created largely as a result of exposure to various influences during their highly impressionable formative years.

 Amidst much concern about an upsurge in gun-related crime on the island, involving mostly youth, strident calls have come from some quarters for the resumption of hanging, in the case of murder, and, in other cases, bringing back use of the cat-o-nine tails as effective responses to the wave of  lawlessness. However, instead of continuing to take a reactive approach which generally characterizes our crime fighting, it seems being proactive may offer the better hope of a solution.

 Many of our criminals are hardened like the character in Gowan’s song and harsh punishment is unlikely to make much of a difference. As Gowan’s character defiantly says: “you will never break me/till the day I die”. He later goes on, quite unapologetically, to state: “I don’t regret a single action/I’d do the same again/These prison walls secure me/And I’m numb to pain.”

 Rehabilitating such a person is an obviously taxing proposition. As harshness is perhaps all that he may have been exposed to for his entire life, perhaps exposure to soft, gentle treatment, especially an experience of genuine love and caring for the first time, may be the turning point. Everyone, regardless of who he or she is, feels empty without an experience of love, acceptance and appreciation. And, interestingly, many offenders admit to feeling this way.

 Commenting on the crime situation in Barbados TODAY in last evening’s edition, veteran criminologist Yolande Forde predicted the problem is more likely to get worse unless Government changes its approach which emphasizes jailing young men as a solution to crime. She said: “We cannot have strategies without a strong law enforcement element. But a strategy that [lacks] a serious and strong crime prevention programme that deals with early indicators of criminal behaviour is flawed and will never, ever reap the kind of results that we would want in terms of crime reduction in this country.”

 What the average Barbadian sees as an effective crime fighting strategy, which is overwhelmingly reactive and heavily emphasizes punishment, may be actually be contributing to making a bad problem worse. The thought of going to prison, or actually doing so, is no longer an effective deterrent, as confirmed by the gleeful images of some young offenders, giving thumbs-up after receiving prison sentences as if they had just scored some major triumph.

To quote the character in Gowan’s song again:

Before you read my sentence

I’d like to say a few words

Here in my own defense. . .

Some people struggle daily

They struggle with their conscience

Till the end

I have no guilt to haunt me

I feel no wrong intent.

 

A more pro-active strategy offers an opportunity to save our young offenders from becoming seemingly lost causes in the criminal system like Gowan’s character. Fortunately, there is still some time.

3 Responses to A more pro-active crime-fighting strategy

  1. John Everatt August 30, 2017 at 1:39 am

    There is no time for the current generation. A person’s character is basically set it the first 5 years of childhood. It is very difficult to change this character makeup later on in life. So the best way to make a change in the youth is to make sure that the parents are educated. Unfortunately in Barbados there are many single mothers who are struggling just to survive. Fathers are absent. Child care board can not cope with the demand for services as can be seen vividly by the recent deaths of some of our children. I am not presenting any answers here other than education and support for the single mothers. If they are secure then perhaps they will raise their children to be secure as well.

    Reply
  2. Freeagent August 30, 2017 at 6:53 am

    There is hope for our young men if we tackle the crime problem from the top and not from the few men on the block. These block men are not the ones who flood our streets with illegal drugs and guns since they do not have the resources to do so. The authorities need to stand up and do what is right and necessary in order to rid the streets of these two scourges. Who will guard the guards and make us safe again?

    Reply
  3. Malcolm King August 30, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    Do we have a higher percentage of single mothers today than 30 years ago I don’t think so. Being the wife of a merchant seaman back then was like a single mom. My maternal Grandmother was the wife of one she raised 4 Boys and 3 Girls while he be away for months yet none of them became criminals. We listened to the social engineeres who don’t know what they are doin. Yet offering a text book cookie cutter form of parenting. There is no one size fits all model. They are bad two parent houhsehold parents and children also. There ate murderers in both types of household. We have dropped what we did in the past and adopted the violent dancehall sub culture. Barbadian children have become followers of the lowest of the low. We need to show there is more to life than bling and instill in our kids right from wrong.

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