Mar­ried house­holds, cure for crime

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY -

THE EDI­TOR, Sir: I SUP­PORT Ron­ald Th­waites’ com­ments in his ar­ti­cle ‘Nor­mal­is­ing high-crime Ja­maican neigh­bour­hoods’ (The Gleaner, Septem­ber 26, 2016). He rightly lists the tragic and lethal mix of fac­tors ac­count­ing for our ap­par­ent en­trenched crime prob­lem. It is also true that there is al­ways hope to re­verse the prob­lem.

Might I add my opin­ion that part of our crime-fight­ing plan­ning prob­lem is a faulty per­cep­tion of hu­man be­ings. We are not ma­chines that can be switched on or off. We are think­ing, feel­ing be­ings with the ca­pac­ity to choose right from wrong. We have to be taught good norms, see them mod­elled around us, and ex­pe­ri­ence the ben­e­fits. Mak­ing good choices has to sound, look and feel way bet­ter than the other op­tions.

Here’s a rad­i­cal sug­ges­tion to deal with our crime prob­lem: sta­ble, mar­ried house­holds. Psy­chol­o­gist Dr Pa­trick Fa­gan, in an in­struc­tive study, The Real Roots of Vi­o­lent Crime: The Break­down of Mar­riage, Fam­ily and Com­mu­nity, re­marks, “Too many young men and women from bro­ken fam­i­lies tend to have a much weaker sense of con­nec­tion with their neigh­bour­hood and are prone to ex­ploit its mem­bers to sat­isfy their un­met needs or de­sires.”

SPEAK UP

Have we ever had a pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion on how nur­tur­ing mar­ried fa­ther-and-mother house­holds link with eco­nomic growth, safer neigh­bour­hoods and bet­ter aca­demic per­for­mances of chil­dren? Why isn’t fam­ily well-be­ing a pol­icy im­per­a­tive of our plan­ning in­sti­tutes? Ja­maican data ex­ist that demon­strate the over­all bet­ter out­comes for chil­dren from mar­ried house­holds, com­pared with co­hab­it­ing house­holds and sin­gle-par­ent house­holds.

Stud­ies abound by lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional ex­perts on the devel­op­ment of crim­i­nal be­hav­iour and its di­rect roots in chil­dren be­ing unloved, ne­glected and re­jected by their par­ents, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing fa­mil­ial con­flict and abuse.

The other pre­scrip­tions made in Ron­ald Th­waites’ and Arnold Ber­tram’s ar­ti­cle on fight­ing crime – strong po­lice pres­ence, ru­ral devel­op­ment, train­ing of youth, civics cur­ricu­lum, will not work by them­selves if the gnaw­ing, core need re­mains un­sat­is­fied: hu­mans be­ings be­liev­ing that their lives mat­ter and they are loved and be­long.

If lead­ers who have ben­e­fited from the sta­bil­ity of mar­ried, two-par­ent house­holds are them­selves un­will­ing to say so be­cause they don’t want to ‘mash any­body corn’, they are re­ally not in­ter­ested in solv­ing prob­lems, nor do they re­ally care for chil­dren. When our poli­cies and laws are based on adult con­ve­nience and not what’s best for chil­dren, all of so­ci­ety pays for it.

Crime is about moral fail­ure and the ab­sence of per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity. It didn’t be­gin with the first gun­shot. I humbly sub­mit that as long as we ig­nore the ele­phant in the room – our fam­ily prac­tices – then your lead­ing head­line, ‘mur­der mad­ness’, may well be­come nor­malised. PHILIPPA DAVIES jch­sad­vo­cate@gmail.com

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