Vi­o­lence can be pre­vented

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY - Ho­race Levy Ho­race Levy is a hu­man­rights cam­paigner. Email feedback to col­umns@glean­ and hal­

VI­O­LENCE CAN be pre­dicted, and it can be pre­vented, even Ja­maica’s. We have to come to that con­vic­tion not as an ar­ti­cle of re­li­gious faith, but be­cause the ev­i­dence for it is solid, both lo­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally. Then we have to act on the con­vic­tion in a con­certed way. We do not have to be wak­ing up to hor­ror scenes like the lat­est in March Pen.

On the lo­cal scene, does any­one not re­mem­ber trav­ellers to Nor­man Man­ley to catch a plane hav­ing to find some route other than Moun­tain View be­cause po­lice there were be­ing shot at and even their ve­hi­cle set on fire? Those episodes 10 years ago oc­cur no longer, thanks to a com­bi­na­tion of ef­fec­tive polic­ing and the meth­ods of the Peace Man­age­ment Ini­tia­tive (PMI).

Party po­lit­i­cal or turf war­fare in other sec­tions of the city – Dunkirk, Trench Town, Whitfield Town, Water­house – have seen sim­i­lar re­duc­tions of vi­o­lence and mur­der for sim­i­lar rea­sons. Ad­mit­tedly, th­ese were re­duc­tions, not to­tal pre­ven­tions. The mur­der rate in Kingston and St An­drew, while much lower than it is in St James, is still much too high. To lower them fur­ther and sta­bilise vic­to­ries, the econ­omy has to chip in with de­cent-pay­ing jobs, and other fac­tors have to be dealt with.

This is why Au­gust Town had the best suc­cess, be­cause not mainly of its pub­li­cised peace agree­ment, but of Univer­sity of the West Indies fol­low-up, with em­ploy­ment es­pe­cially, to which more re­cently Siz­zla is a key con­trib­u­tor.

Earn­ings from pick and shovel to fash­ion the Usain Bolt cam­pus track or one of the new hous­ing blocks, which have dou­bled cam­pus ac­com­mo­da­tion, kept many a youth out of the ‘shotta’ busi­ness. Lately, a dub of a Siz­zla song, copies of which can be sold here or abroad, is earn­ing re­cip­i­ents good in­come. If other of our many world-fa­mous artistes were to fol­low Siz­zla’s ster­ling ex­am­ple (which re­gret­tably Au­gust Town churches do not ap­pre­ci­ate), and if Govern­ment’s hous­ing plans were to bring jobs, the im­pact on vi­o­lence would be quickly felt.

Turn­ing to ev­i­dence from the in­ter­na­tional scene, there are

two ar­eas of rel­e­vance to Ja­maica for vi­o­lence preven­tion to which I would call at­ten­tion. One is the abuse of chil­dren of sin­gle par­ents, the other is the ed­u­ca­tion of con­victed pris­on­ers.


There is data show­ing that, in the US, chil­dren are more likely to suf­fer abuse in sin­gle-par­ent than in two-par­ent house­holds, and that those abused are vi­o­lent in later life. In Swe­den, by con­trast, which ri­vals the US in the num­ber of sin­gle par­ents, this pat­tern is en­tirely pre­vented through ample state sup­port for sin­gle mothers in ed­u­ca­tion and the care of their chil­dren. Swe­den’s homi­cide rate is way be­low that of the US. Its peo­ple are more tol­er­ant, and the sham­ing present in the US wel­fare sys­tem is ab­sent. It is th­ese cul­tural fac­tors, not sin­gle moth­er­hood, that is re­spon­si­ble for the high rate of vi­o­lence in the US.

Ja­maica’s tol­er­ance is more like Swe­den’s, but its abuse of chil­dren is like that in the US – only worse. Dr Her­bert Gayle has been call­ing at­ten­tion to this abuse – tor­ture, in fact – of boys in some sin­gle-mother house­holds and its con­nec­tion with later vi­o­lence. Some so­cial en­gi­neer­ing is needed to­wards a fo­cus on the ed­u­ca­tion of sin­gle mothers and on en­cour­ag­ing fathers, the em­ployed at least, to live with their baby­moth­ers, the first ones es­pe­cially, end­ing the tra­di­tional ‘visit­ing’ re­la­tion­ship.

On the ed­u­ca­tion front, the

ex­tra­or­di­nary re­sults of a col­lege ed­u­ca­tion on prison con­victs have been pointed out by renowned Har­vard psy­chi­a­trist James Gil­li­gan. His sur­vey dis­closed that over a 25-year pe­riod, of more than 200 in­mates, most of whom served time for vi­o­lent crimes, in­clud­ing mur­der, rape and armed rob­bery, but who re­ceived a col­lege de­gree in prison, not one had been re­turned for a new crime.

Then he dis­cov­ered that the state of In­di­ana had found ex­actly the same re­sult, and so had Fol­som State Prison in Cal­i­for­nia (Pre­vent­ing Vi­o­lence). Min­is­ter Mon­tague is on the right track in want­ing to en­sure that no prison in­mate leaves prison il­lit­er­ate. The NGO, Stand Up For Ja­maica, works hard with min­i­mum sup­port to that end.

I have listed here only ma­jor pre­ven­tive mea­sures pos­si­ble. But there are oth­ers: seiz­ing the as­sets of the scam­mers, for ex­am­ple – po­lice in Mon­tego Bay know the houses as big as An­drew’s owned by teenage scam­mers but do noth­ing about it. Kick­backs?

Span­ish Town is scream­ing for so­cial intervention. By a con­certed pre­ven­tive cam­paign on sev­eral fronts with the planned spend­ing it needs, Ja­maica’s vi­o­lence will be­gin a marked down­ward slide.


A woman mourns the deaths of five per­sons who were shot and their home set ablaze in March Pen, Span­ish Town, on Sun­day.


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