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Examine root causes of violence among youth


Jonteau Coppin

Examine root causes of violence among youth
Attorney and member of the Democratic Labour Party, Rasheed Belgrave. (Picture by Lennox Devonish)

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Barbados needs to look at the underlying factors for the increase in gun related crime, particularly among the youth.

That was the message from Democratic Labour Party (DLP) member Rasheed Belgrave on Sunday during a public meeting at the corner Pine Plantation Road, Collymore Rock, St Michael.

He said it was “unfair” to criticise young men for choosing the path of violence without first acknowledging the circumstances that would cause them to do so.

“What are the push factors? Just so young people would make up one morning and decide to shoot people? Or did something happen that caused them to react in this manner? Are there jobs circulating for them? No. Is there a source of income for them apart from the boss in the community giving them handouts? No. How can you then expect to quell gun violence when there are no alternatives?”

Belgrave, an attorney, added that regardless of the political party in charge of running the country, everyone must come together to solve this issue.

“As a lawyer you see both sides of the story. Society only sees a young man in handcuffs on the front page of newspapers and people making comments like ‘Hang them!’ ‘Lost them way!’

“Then you have parents calling you back saying ‘I don’t know what to do’. This is not a political issue. Crime is just an issue and it affects everyone. Whether it is the Barbados Labour Party, Democratic Labour Party, it is something that has to be dealt with and dealt with effectively.”

These comments came after the latest murder, that of Shaquille O’Neal Mason, 26, in yet another a shooting incident, this time at Long Bay, St Philip, last Thursday.

Belgrave, who ran as a candidate in the last General Election, also spoke on the matter of the Government Industrial School. He stated that there was a long list of issues surrounding the school, and by extension juvenile justice in Barbados generally, that must be resolved if the country is to truly state that it cares about its young people.

“Why are we treating them (our young people) like this? Allegations of sexual abuse, physical abuse, untrained staff… a laundry list of issues that didn’t start now, but should have been sorted by now. A three million dollar institution should be providing a care centre for these young girls.”

The DLP chair of the working group on youth, also questioned the validity of the current legislation that exists pertaining to the school.

“Why are our young people facing a mandatory three-year prison sentence under the Reformatory and Industrial Schools Act for wandering, a crime that essentially means being in a place your parents asked you not to be?” he asked.

“You can spend no less than three years and no more than five years of incarceration at 13 or 14 years old for a non-violent offence like wandering but people get six months’ jail time for breaking and entering,” the attorney explained.

“The legislation that governs the Industrial School was created in 1926, meaning four years from now, it will be 100 years old. That is how ancient and draconian the Act is. It has been a long time that we have been calling for juvenile reform in this country and the time is now. The buck stops now.” (JC)