Columns

Not fair! Criminals get expungement and big jobs

Franklin Johnston

Friday, July 20, 2018

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We hear the words rehabilitation and expungement since 'whistle-blower' Philip Paulwell outed Carolyn Warren, who faced conviction of a drug-related office and is now CEO of State-owned National Energy Solutions Limited (NESoL). This is okay, as rehabilitation, ending recidivism, and for firms to show an ex-con can make it if she does a 180-degree is our goal.

Warren may be a fine lady, but she made two big mistakes: She dealt with a deadly drug which screws up health and kills. Second, she got a top job but did not come clean to her employer. Those who vie for “C class” jobs know the drill: Be transparent, as prison data, birthday is not on the form.

Did she deceive a past employer or they gave her a dishonest reference? Where did she work? We can't celebrate rehabilitation or commend the firm here, neither can Justice Minister Delroy Chuck feel good as deception colts the game. Despite a likely politics motive, Philip Paulwell is a credible whistle-blower. We accept facts from any source.

Chuck, all public or private employers can now close loopholes. Warren said: “Since the suspended sentence, which set me back in life, I have honestly dedicated myself to turning my life around...” and she did not declare her criminal conviction previously because she was “not the same person”.

Warren is mistaken. What “set her back” is that she was caught! And her delusional statement of “not the same person” is code for taking no responsibility after 25 years of marinating. She could have been a role model for rehabilitation. What a waste!

So how might we handle these issues going forward? Actions have consequences; in physics reaction force; in the Bible, reap what you sow. Crime, conviction is social; victims, family, the justice system and, uniquely, with drugs the fabric of society is undermined. Rehabilitation is also social, as facilitators, victims are in a reparatory milieu. Society judged you, so it, not you, will affirm your rehabilitation. Our advice is gain control of your agency, rebuild with guidance, so all can marvel at your transformation. An “own way” resolution made in secret is not rehabilitation.

We spent years in Her Majesty's Prison Service (HMPS) engaged in research, advice, strategy. We were in cells with brilliant Jews, Polish mobsters, tech savvy Asians, illiterate Jamaicans — all nasty, most smart! One was 20 years an adult before his crime and was clean for 15 years after conviction; is he rehabilitated? Is he changed or just afraid of being caught again? Jack Mandora...!

Chuck spoke of expungement, what's that? Neither this nor rehabilitation is absolute. Does it erase crime? The file is empty? The Justice Ministry's website says, “Expungement is essentially having a conviction removed from one's criminal/police record after a specific period of time has elapsed and after certain requirements have been met.” This statement is flawed, deeply troubling, and does no justice to our jurisprudence, ministry reputation or common sense.

This big “E” must be to shield the miscreant from the usual consequences of crime, such as exclusion from State privileges, jobs, visas, etc. He was caught, tried, convicted, sentenced, expunged: Facts! A Christian's sin gets “wash weh” and he testifies; do expunged felons testify or hide and keep quiet? But this is not an end as there are adjunct issues.

Collateral damage is crucial. What justice to those who live clean and lose jobs to expunged ex-cons? What of victims; depressed cocaine users, scarred, never arrested, but can't get or hold a job. The expunged get visas; youth they sold to can't? Chuck, what of justice for victims? What of corporate governance?

A conviction kept secret opens an executive (like Donald Trump) to blackmail. A board that employs a felon as CEO puts Jamaica, the firm's brand, shareholders' value at risk. What penalty for failure? We are in a revisionist period and a letter to the editor in The Gleaner, headlined 'Appleton Estate tour whitewashes history' may be so, but an African slave seller, a slave, or a British slave buyer's history of slavery may each read differently. Is expungement rewriting history or just to add a footnote? Will George William Gordon's and Paul Bogle's agony be overwritten to say they died peacefully in bed? Marcus Garvey's jail time excised? No way! Pearnel Charles' agony must challenge youth; J A G Smith history is a warning to corrupt politicians, and Sir Alexander Bustamante's defining conviction celebrated. Minister Chuck, if you expunge how will our kids know our heroes' glorious suffering?

To weaponise a collegial process such as rehabilitation is evil genius. Crime is not equal. One CEO was a driver whose car killed a child — forgivable, accidents happen. But cocaine dealing is planned, recurring, repulsive and moral turpitude is patent. To not declare a felony (not a misdemeanour) in a fiduciary context is evil. Mr CEO, what's on your fit and proper form at Bank of Jamaica? Consider a spouse or partner who sleeps with a death dealer and does not know? Scary!

So what's the message? Your life is your responsibility; accept the consequences of your acts as your past will eventually get you! If you are so emotionally illiterate as to forget you are a convicted felon and hide it from others. Seek help! Stay conscious, friend!

Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon), is a strategist and project manager; Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK); and teaches logistics and supply chain management at Mona School of Business and Management, The University of the West Indies. Send comments to the Observer or franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com.

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