So­cial reengi­neer­ing – An al­ter­nate crime plan

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Shan­dono Bur­ton/ Guest Colum­nist Shan­dono Bur­ton is a stu­dent at The Mico Univer­sity Col­lege and a youth par­lia­men­tar­ian, St Thomas Eastern 2019-2020.

BLOOD­SHED, VI­O­LENCE and abuse are among the top head­lines that fre­quent our lo­cal news­pa­pers from time to time. The preva­lence of the crime mon­ster that has taken up res­i­dency within the Ja­maican so­ci­ety may be a de­riv­a­tive of sev­eral fac­tors within the Ja­maican so­cio-eco­nomic frame­work.

Crim­i­nal vi­o­lence and do­mes­tic abuse sig­nal our in­abil­ity to set­tle dis­putes in a rea­son­able, civilised and de­cent man­ner. This has, for a long time, been at the heart of our dis­con­tent as a na­tion. We have taught gen­er­a­tions of Ja­maicans that phys­i­cal abuse and vi­o­lence are ac­cept­able forms of re­sponse to ag­i­ta­tion. Crime, there­fore, is a so­cially ori­ented disease and as such, re­quires a so­cially ori­ented so­lu­tion for ef­fec­tive change to be re­alised.

The is­sue of dis­pute res­o­lu­tion be­gins with the ba­sic unit of so­ci­ety, which is the fam­ily. It is no se­cret that the habits of par­ents are of­ten mir­rored by their off­springs. These habits, over time, are passed down to gen­er­a­tions and this is what some ex­perts may term as a process of cul­tur­ing. A child’s first place of learn­ing to re­solve dis­putes is from the home. How do mummy and daddy re­solve dis­putes be­tween them? How do par­ents re­solve is­sues with their chil­dren? The an­swer to these ques­tions should in­form our un­der­stand­ing of who we are as a peo­ple. The fact that many of our homes are sin­gle-par­ent house­holds makes the sit­u­a­tion even more com­plex, as the ex­am­ple of one adult re­lat­ing to an­other adult may not be avail­able in the homes. But, on the face of it, what is avail­able at home are trans­lated into habits and pat­terns which then be­come char­ac­ter.


Dr Christo­pher Tufton, speak­ing in Novem­ber 2018 at a pub­lic forum hosted to ad­dress the is­sue of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, said that around 15 per cent of the fe­males be­tween the ages of 15 and 49 ex­pe­ri­ence do­mes­tic abuse by their male part­ners. When chil­dren be­come ex­posed to these lev­els and fre­quency of vi­o­lence from within their homes, they de­velop with the no­tion that the only way to set­tle dis­putes is by vi­o­lent means. This sad foun­da­tion be­comes the base on which all fu­ture re­la­tion­ships are es­tab­lished.

Chil­dren grow up be­liev­ing that the only way to be heard is to chan­nel their dis­gust, an­guish and anger through vi­o­lence, chaos and an­ar­chy. These habits get trans­lated into the un­nec­es­sary killings that are car­ried out daily within our so­ci­ety.

Sev­eral fac­tions that de­velop in com­mu­ni­ties across the is­land started with a sim­ple dis­agree­ment at the bar, cook­shop, or the football field over some mun­dane mat­ter.

If we are to ad­dress the is­sue of the preva­lence of crime and vi­o­lence within our so­ci­ety, we can be­gin the process of so­cially ori­ented so­lu­tions with a fo­cus on de-es­ca­lat­ing ten­sions as the ef­fec­tive way to crime-fight­ing. We can be­gin within the schools, in the same way that em­pha­sis is placed on hard skills such as the learn­ing of the sciences, arts, English and math­e­mat­ics, the same level of in­vest­ment needs to be car­ried out in the de­vel­op­ment of soft skills among our youth.


Greater fo­cus needs to be placed on teach­ing in­ter­per­sonal com­mu­ni­ca­tion to break the cy­cle of ag­gres­sion to solv­ing prob­lems. The is­sue of dis­pute res­o­lu­tion should be the fo­cus of ur­ban re­newal ef­forts, spe­cially tai­lored to­wards in­ner-city com­mu­ni­ties. We would aim to cre­ate more peace­ful en­vi­ron­ments, like parks, recre­ational spa­ces and places where adults can in­ter­act and share their cur­rent par­ent­ing meth­ods, work chal­lenges and so­cial en­gage­ments. This would en­able ad­vice and guid­ance to be given in a peace­ful and less con­fronta­tional en­vi­ron­ment, to per­sons who may be en­gaged in prac­tices which are not con­ducive to rais­ing a child with the right tools to solve the dis­putes. The chan­nels that bind us to­gether as a peo­ple are far greater than the av­enues that di­vide us, and as such, the onus is on each and ev­ery one of us to treat each other with kind­ness, as a lit­tle re­spect goes a far away.

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