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Holistic way best for crime

Dawn Parris

Holistic way best for crime

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A GROUP OF?EXPERTS with varying specialties has recommended a holistic approach to addressing the country’s crime problems that includes more focus on nipping criminal behaviour in the bud, and giving second chances to those who run afoul of the law.
One of them, criminologist Yolande Forde, said the integrated approach was the way to go, especially with the focus on punishment not producing the desired results.
Forde, Michelle Gyles-McDonnough, resident coordinator of the United Nations Development Programme, and Win Callender, president of the Prison Fellowship, put their suggestions on the table Wednesday night at Lester Vaughan School during a lively discussion at THE NATION’S third and final Talkback session for the year.
“There has largely been an imbalance in the approach to the crime challenge in Barbados which, in my opinion, has seen an overemphasis on the reactive and insufficient emphasis on the proactive,” Forde said.
“It is very important for us to realise that crime is, first and foremost, a behavioural problem and behaviours do not form overnight so they are not going to change overnight. But now is the time for us to strengthen or expand existing programmes and implement those that don’t exist that can address this problem.”
Gyles-McDonnough added that it was “time to move a little faster in transitioning from . . . heavy emphasis on law enforcement and complement it as we move to put the citizen and the community at the centre of this process”.
“It is time to focus on prevention, it is time to focus on second chances, it is time to start valuing individuals and respecting their rights to live to their full potential,” she added.
Forde, who in her 20-year career has studied the factors that predispose people to crime, made specific recommendations that included school-based interventions for children who displayed unacceptable and troublesome behaviour; solid, rehabilitative programmes within prison; and a post-release supervision and support programme for former prisoners to reduce the recidivism rate that now stood at 68 per cent.
“If you really understand what prison is like you would stop trying to believe that prison is like a hospital, a place where people go to get better,” she told the audience.
“That institution has its limitations and there must be, most definitely, a programme to assist with the reintegration of our ex-prisoners . . . We need to find ways in which they can be given a second chance.”
Callender agreed that rehabilitation of the prison population – now 1 055 – was critical: “Prison Fellowship believes we should try to rehabilitate some of those people and make them worthwhile parts of our society.
“Fellows are saying they go back into prison because we [members of society] have turned our backs to them, we have ignored them, we have refused to employ them, their families have rejected them and they have nowhere to go.”
Meantime, Forde was also insistent that parents had a crucial role in ensuring criminal behaviour did not creep into their children’s lives.
“We’re expecting too much from the police. The police cannot come into your house and raise your children for you and instil in your children the values and the mores and the morals that they need to have; that is your job,” she said.           
Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin, in his wrap-up, agreed that crime was not a one-dimensional issue and a multi-dimensional approach was therefore required to tackle it. (DP)