Columns

Why ZOSO will succeed

Jason
Mckay

Sunday, October 08, 2017

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Since the passing of measures relating to extended detention by then Prime Minister Bruce Golding on July 2008 — which were introduced amidst screams of protest and legally challenged and dismissed with quiet efficiency — little legislation has been introduced to assist the fight against crime.

As a matter of fact, as it relates to measures introduced that aid criminals, there have been many measures that Parliament passed since then that have significantly assisted the ability of criminals to function in an atmosphere that removes danger and the possibility of detention from their reality.

The two most prominent are the revision of the Bail Act (July 2010) and the INDECOM Act (April 2010). Both pieces of legislation were designed to create a country showing deep concern for human rights for all and for the safety of its citizens from State suppression.

However, although it is designed for all of our freedoms, it is really only utilised by criminals.

How many innocent members of society have to contend with being detained unjustly whilst awaiting trial?

It does happen, but I would go out on a limb to say this is a statistical abnormality and the lion's share of the persons benefiting from the revised Bail Act are functioning criminals.

The INDECOM Act also is designed to police State suppression and abuse. But really, how many members of Jamaica's innocent population are actually engaged in combat with the police, whether real or alleged?

The chess game in the fight against crime has lost its knights and bishops, and ultimately we function in a society where a man can murder your family in front of you, be held with the gun whilst exiting your premises, and still qualify for bail to participate in a trial that will take between five and seven years to be conducted.

Then came the zones of special operations (ZOSO). This allows for the detention of known gang members for a period up to 60 days, providing specific criteria, which includes the input of a justice of the peace and high-ranking police officers.

This aspect, even standing by itself, brings consequence back to the table. This had been removed by the revised Bail Act and the INDECOM Act. And it does not stand alone. It budgets for occupation that will dislocate gunmen, allowing for their support structure to be separated from them.

This will serve to dissuade gang members from wreaking havoc that will result in their gang zone being selected as a ZOSO. The perception of no consequence for one's actions is over. There is now a dangerous response to their way of life which will impact their liberty, their movement; and they know this.

The murder rate for the last quarter of the year will be less than what it was in the third quarter of the year. I'm not referring to the period last year this time. It's not weather, you don't have a rainy season versus a dry season. You have to compare time periods that flow one into the other if you're going to measure the effectiveness of recently introduced crime-fighting measures or legislation.

It does need to be more widespread, with several ZOSOs operating across the island and judged by the macro effect on the entire island — not just in the ZOSO, because although I can guarantee you that the ZOSO will be crime-free whilst ZOSO is there — it is the perception of ZOSO landing on your gang zone that will stop the killing being conducted with impunity by the gangs of Jamaica.

Don't underrate the power of perception that you will be punished in some form for criminal conduct, but this has to be tied to a realistic possibility that you could actually suffer under ZOSO. It can't be very unlikely to actually happen. It must be perceived that there is a clear and present possibility that your gang zone could become a ZOSO.

Capital punishment has failed in the western hemisphere for this very same reason whilst working quite well in several Asian and communist countries, because the possibility of being executed was actually quite high whereas in many countries in the west, the persons sent to death row represented an extremely minute number of offenders and the process took ridiculously long to be carried out versus countries such as China, etc.

Jason McKay is a criminologist.

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