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ADRIAN GREEN: The four R’s of rehabilitation


ADRIAN GREEN: The four R’s of rehabilitation

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THE CARIBBEAN has some of the highest rates of incarceration in the world. Comparatively large percentages of our male population are behind bars.  Rehabilitative programmes are not an option for us, they should be seen as an essential service.

The hoped-for ultimate end of a rehabilitative programme is reconciliation. A repentant perpetrator hopes for forgiveness from his victims. Victims often hope for closure and peace through forgiveness.

This process can be difficult, but given our history, rehabilitation should already have been a central feature of our culture.

Our society was conceived, birthed and raised in violence. Barbados was built by milking and bleeding a segment of the population and erecting structures on a bed made of their bones. On one level, indentured labourers, and on a deeper level enslaved Africans formed the inmates of a nationwide concentration camp. They formed the base of the penal colony pyramid.

At the pinnacle is where the real the criminals resided. The legalised crimes of the upper echelon of society were the catalyst for all others. All other criminal activity was the result of a trickle-down effect. Violence breeds violence. The bullied often become bullies.

This society functioned like a kind of corrupt prison system. Some argue that it still does, and that it is just the degree and nature of the lockdown that citizens experience that has changed. Whatever the case, conflict is deep in our cultural genetic structure. 

Our historical DNA does not necessarily define our future destiny. Whether or not these cultural genes find expression depends largely on our conscious efforts at rehabilitation.

A history of diabetes in your family or a genetic predisposition to the illness does not mean that you have to get it. A past filled with violence and oppression does not necessarily equate to a conflict- filled future.

When I am aware of my family’s medical background I can make decisions which will prevent the onset of illnesses which were thought to be hereditary. Genes are only part of the equation. I also inherit eating habits, activity levels and habitual responses to stress. Along with inheriting a genetic predisposition to diabetes, I may also inherit a diabetes inducing culture. 

As a child, my choices are restricted. I am a prisoner of my family’s customs. If I am born into a family whose way of life contributes to high blood sugar, my life may depend on me being able to break free of that culture and make different choices.

This is the essence of maturity; to be able to think and act against the tide of environment and external influences. It is simple. Unfortunately simple does not mean easy. With age comes the increased ability to rationalise, ignore and engage in denial.

As a maturing nation we should create a rehabilitative culture out of the ruins of the British Empire. From emancipation to independence and beyond could be seen as steps in the process of rehabilitating a whole culture.

To rehabilitate is defined as to restore to good health or useful life, as through therapy and education. We seek to rehabilitate patients, addicts, convicts and any persons who cannot adequately help themselves or who habitually hurt others.

The victims of oppression or violence will be in need of rehabilitation to regain the comfort, confidence, peace of mind and sense of security necessary to live a full life. The perpetrators of violence or oppression also need rehabilitation, to break the tendency to aggression and anti-social behaviour, so they can live in harmony with others.

Addiction recovery programmes the world over start with recognising and acknowledging that you have a problem. The convict’s path to successful re-entry into society starts with recognising and acknowledging their wrongdoing.

Until this happens, full rehabilitation is doubtful. Many attempt to “move on” without squarely facing their problem, only to relapse or repeatedly offend. You cannot solve a problem you do not acknowledge exists.

After recognition comes reconditioning. Knowledge of the problem does not necessarily translate into the know-how to fix it. If the problematic condition is deeply ingrained, you may have to take the time to root out the old ways and replace them with new patterns of thought and action. Sometimes it takes the assistance of a professional. The process of rehabilitation continues with reparations for damage caused and hopefully ends with reconciliation between victims and perpetrators.

Most of us want peace and harmony and realise that reconciliation is desirable. It is tempting to try to rush reconciliation by skipping the steps of reconditioning and reparations. Like the addict who checks himself out of rehab early, the violent criminal who never addressed his abusive childhood, the rape victim who begins dating without dealing with her anxiety around males, overanxious reconcilers can set themselves up for a fall.

After apartheid, South Africa held a series of truth and reconciliation commissions.  White officials acknowledged and recognised their crimes against the black population in exchange for total amnesty. Years later, inter-racial relations in that country are still very strained and indigenous Africans remain discontented. The effort to reconcile without programmes for reconditioning and reparations has had poor results.

Race issues in the US are acute due to the insufficient reconditioning and reparations programmes coming out of the civil rights era. Black Americans are said to be worse off in many respects. Could the Caribbean’s high rates of incarceration be related to the fact that our efforts at rehabilitation from our historical trauma pale even in comparison to the above nations? What about the reported high rates of child abuse?

Maybe the four R’s of Rehabilitation; Recognition, Reconditioning, Reparations and Reconciliation should be as fundamental as reading, writing and arithmetic.

Dodds is already overflowing and it ain even done pay for yet.

Adrian Green is a creative communication specialist and a recovering colonial subject. Email: [email protected]