Rehabilitate rather than offer discounted sentences
Over 1,000 murders have been commited in Jamaica since the start of the year.

Dear Editor,

Terrorist-like shootings in Jamaica are becoming an acceptable norm. The danger of accepting this response may lead to us becoming numb, desensitised, or apathetic to these vicious events.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Fitz Bailey consistently and rightly classifies these acts as cases of domestic terrorism. Wikipedia defines domestic terrorism as home-grown terrorism in which the perpetrators and victims are within the same environment. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), domestic terrorism may be defined as criminal activities of a very violent nature, which is committed by individuals and/or groups to promote some ideological goals. Actions originating from domestic terrorism are political, religious, social, racial, or environmental in nature.

Recently a young and promising police officer was a fatal victim of the actions of these terrorists. His only mistake was being at the wrong place at the wrong time. He was supporting a grieving family, mourning the loss of a loved one. Miraculously, only four people were shot, even though the police reported recovering over 60 spent casings. This clearly demonstrated an attempt to create fear while sending the message of a lack of respect for life, the highest level of any human right.

A few months ago eight people were shot at a football match in St Catherine. There was not much public outcry, a clear sign of a society becoming desensitised. During that same period the National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang made a statement in support of his officers which seemed logical. This, however, was twisted and attracted more public attention than the acts of domestic terrorism.

There are individuals in this country who seek to influence us to not strike that balance between the right of victims and their families and the rights of perpetrators. Therefore, the natural approach to addressing a breach of individual rights is delayed, discounted, or denounced. Some of these influencing forces tend to push the economic card, stating that it is because "dem poor". The challenge I have with this is that many of us also knew what it is to grow up with hunger being one of our siblings. The difference is that we made that critical and conscious choice not to take the route of a life of crime.

I believe their motive goes beyond public influence. These influencing forces seek to establish an environment of diminishing responsibility (DR) among judiciaries. The thinking behind this approach is to assume that the perpetrator was in an unbalanced mental state when he or she committed the act and, as such, he or she should be given a lesser charge or sentence. Thank God the authorities did not fall to this influence in pursuit of justice for the victims of the Cocoa Piece butcher.

It cannot be that when these people have their day in court our system of justice is brought into further disrepute due to excessively lenient sentences. What is even more alarming is that some of the beneficiaries of this level of leniency are repeat offenders. We like to adopt things from our neighbour up north. They have a better system that encourages rehabilitation, yet they are not so generous when it comes to the sentencing of repeat offenders.

Care must then be taken in respect of the message we intend to send to our stakeholders. Is it that we have an effective and reliable rehab system that will reduce the recidivist rate? Is the State able to provide the victim and/or his or her family with the necessary support to move on?

In murder cases, the victim's right to life is greatly discounted in comparison to the perpetrator's.

People who continue to act against established and just laws are demonstrating that they are uncomfortable living and abiding by the structure mandated by the State. These people should be afforded all the necessary resources to prove their innocence. However, after exhausting their rights through the justice system and are found guilty, consideration should be given to the resources and processes that are available to influence and reinforce positive behaviour.

Violence producers will migrate to other areas locally and overseas because they know our networking capabilities are very limited. The present broadband internet and computer policy that the Government has started for schools should also be extended to police stations, ensuring the necessary safeguards are in place to prevent security breaches. This system should also provide a profile on most violence producers. Thereby, assisting investigators in readily identifying those who, at times, use other areas to "cool out". This should also be supported by an effective community neighbourhood watch programme.

Solving crime is everybody's business.

Michael Clarke

Innswood, St Catherine

mm2clarke@yahoo.com

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