Attorney-at-law Michelle Thomas is urging the Government to introduce a system whereby every mother under age 18 is registered for monitoring and guidance on parenting.
At the same time, social anthropology lecturer at The University of the West Indies, Mona, Dr Herbert Gayle noted that only one in seven boys in the innercity is shielded from criminal influence, while one in three girls are protected.
According to Thomas, with the family being the first agent of socialisation, proper parenting skills are needed to combat the crime issue that the country is facing.
“What I think the Government needs to do is whenever a mother goes to register to have a baby, and that mother is below the age of 18 years, that person should be monitored because she doesn't know how to raise a child and the reason why we have so much crime is because the teenage pregnancy level is high. We need to teach parents how to be parents, and some of us lose our way in parenting skills,” Thomas told the Jamaica Observer.
She said she has observed that mothers who live in inner-city communities tend to condone their children's criminal activities instead of reporting them to the police.
Thomas argued that the Government should implement more effective behavioural modification programmes in these inner-city communities.
“The community centres must be used right throughout the country as a space for social transformation. I would advise that we need to have these dormant community centres reopened and cultivated to have a space where children's lives can be changed for the better,” said Thomas, who added that the focus must be placed on social intervention to deal with crime.
“Based on how we look on prison, how we view prison, it shows that really it's a socialisation and cultural habits of the people that should be formulated in a way where we try to produce good citizens,” Thomas said.
“Right now when you commit the crime of murder you will serve a term of life in prison and that's not a deterrent. What we need is a social construct for young people. A lot of time we have children rearing children in Jamaica and we don't get parents who actually can mould their child's mind in the right way, so that they become good citizens.
“Sentencing right now in Jamaica, that nuh frighten nuh body because right now to go into prison and come out you're seen as a hit. If you are a badman and you never go prison yet, you're not really a badman, you have to go to prison,” Thomas stated.
Meanwhile, Gayle said, “The others are exposed to continue the warfare,” “In Jamaica we have what we call perpetrator-victims rather than perpetrator and victim, because the perpetrator is also the victim, and that's because there are some seriously damaged children and young people that we damage as part of the cycle of violence,” said Gayle as he argued that the politics in Jamaica reflects the theory of segmentary factionalism.
“That means that a lot of people are Labourites and Comrades before they are Jamaicans and that is something they learn, that comes out of colonisation where the overseer was black and he was more brutal than the white man. From very early divide and conquer has been effective. Black people know how to be divided. Black people are very good at conflict,” Gayle stated, as he explained that the country's policy of aggression and using fire to fight fire have been wrong.
“Solving this means stepping back from that, from the Government all the way to your neighbourhood, people have to learn how to be calmer, people have to learn to invest more in themselves, take better care of children. Make sure your children go to school, make sure your children have the four bars of ontological security — food supportive parents, as much shield as possible from violence,” said Gayle.
In the meantime, a resident of Sunlight Street in Kingston 13, Sherika Davis, a 39-year-old, agreed with both Thomas and Gayle, while expressing her fear of living in that community.
Having been the victim of a recent incident in which her six-month-old granddaughter was shot in the head after gunmen fired shots at her wooden house; Davis explained that she doesn't believe states of emergency implemented across the country are helpful.
“Mi nah go seh a state of emergency will help because when the state of emergency they (members of the security forces) will come here and then fi a time the man dem go a way and when them gone them come back. Sometimes the soldier dem deh pan di ends and shot a fire round yah suh and them cannot lef from where them is and come attend to some weh a gwaan right a way,” said Davis.
Detailing her life in the tough inner-city community, Davis said while there is always conflict involving gangsters from that community and neighbouring areas, the current conflict is especially difficult because this time it's residents of Sunlight Street seemingly fighting against each other.
She said, “At times we have war going on, but after a while it cool off. But living here right now we scared because is the same road warring. It rougher dan when a road and a next road war but when the when it's the one road it is so rough. Right now mi scared to sleep in my house because as you see is a board house mi live ina.
“Because of the shooting and what tek place I don't want really in there and then my next daughter get shot because a me and my next nine-year-old daughter deh deh now,” added Davis.