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The law not the only way

Ezra Alleyne

The law not the only way

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I suppose that in a few years, some sharp student will research the current crime situation and try to work out what was done and could have been done to deal with the problem.
He/she will have to contend with the view that the laws need changing, that the punishments need to be harsher, and that the judges and the courts need to pass longer sentences, and so on and so forth.
Such a researcher will recognize that the law is not the only mechanism for controlling a society and that powerful as the law is, sometimes it is not even the most effective mechanism.
Some account will have to be taken of those other agents of social control, especially if they may impact on behaviour prior to the commission of crime. Law kicks in after the crime has been committed, although it has some deterrent effect.
Recent statements of authority figures emphasize this truth, even if the wider public regard the police as having the largest role in dealing with crime; but cultural and moral codes of the community also matter.
Social ostracism by the village or district of a young man or woman embracing deviant practices can often turn him/her away from such behaviour. This collective impact is also inherent in the famous saying that “it takes a village to raise a child”.
And since habitual obedience by the majority of people to the law makes the law the more effective, that same law-abiding majority can say to the one or two potential deviants in that village that a particular form of behaviour is not acceptable.
That is how it used to be, and many a young upstart inclined to be deviant has been pulled up sharp by elders and even his peers within the community. So that fear of being shunned or ostracized by his fellows used to be, and can still be, a most effective mechanism of control, because it can intervene at the first sign of deviance and cause the miscreant to reconsider his ways before he becomes a criminal actor.
The role of religious teaching in schools, for example, has also been touted as a critical control mechanism, and while it is true that such teaching may influence the character and behaviour of young people, there must be exposure.
Yet, in an increasingly secular world where political correctness has removed or diminished exposure to such moral landmarks, cultural penetration attacks and exposes the “clean slate” of our youngsters’ minds to a deviant morality at the very same time that we have removed the protective coating of moral instruction.
The invading infection therefore has a field day, especially when the youngsters whose minds are attacked are “barely literate”, to adopt the expression used to describe many young criminals by Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin at the recent Consultation On Crime.
Mr Dottin also called for the church to do more.
“There needs to be an intervention in some of our challenged communities to stop some of these people coming into contact with the criminal justice system, and therein lies the role of the church.”
But an obvious question is: “What happened when these youngsters were at school? What moral compasses were they given to navigate the world, or did they just tune out and become disruptive?”  
Whatever happened, it is clear that more than law enforcement is needed to pull back the position, and while an effort must be made to rescue those who did not benefit from moral landmark instruction either at home or school in the past, equally important will be the need to expose up-and-coming youngsters in their formative years to such instruction.
And in all of this, rehabilitation of young offenders, so that they are helped to reform and not become repeat offenders, must be a major part of the total package.
A clear message coming out of the debate on crime is that prevention is better than cure. Yet the society must now be prepared to attempt both prevention and cure . . . and law enforcement is never enough.