Where is the political will to fight criminality?Wednesday, September 22, 2021
BY CURTIS WEBLEY
ON Thurday, September 16 I read an article in the Jamaica Observer headlined 'Police commissioner laments light sentences for serious crimes' and was appalled, but not surprised.
According to the article, criminals brought before the courts for gun crimes or cocaine trafficking offences walk free, are given a small fine, or a suspended sentence. If this is correct it appears that the consequences of criminality are conducive to the perpetrators. This is because our legal and political systems, inadvertently, become aiders and abettors of the criminals, while undermining the efforts of law enforcement and the victims of the crimes.
Our political parties and the ministries of security and justice are, unwittingly, contributory factors to criminality. A perpetrator cannot commit a major crime and then be given the choice of a preferred sentence. Most perpetrators have the wherewithal to pay the fine and will do so, only to resurface in their communities and create havoc. This is preposterous, and reasonable people would have amended existing laws to make them more effective.
Are our politicians, lawmakers, and judges not aware of these seepages?
We cannot have a legal system that is rigged against the victims for the benefit of the perpetrators. This is precisely why crime cannot be contained, because our government officials believe that talking about the problem incessantly is as good as a resolution.
Recently this newspaper pointed out that, “The People's National Party (PNP) is calling on the Government to develop new initiatives and bring new energy to the fight against violent crime,” (September 13, 2021).
In the same article Peter Bunting, the PNP's shadow minister of national security, is reported to have said, “The statistics provide a failing grade for the Government's performance in the fight against crime over the last year.” This is the same former government official who, as a minister of security, was allegedly robbed in Portland and had called for “divine intervention” to solve criminality because he could not devise a plan or a solution.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has emphasised a “zero-tolerance” approach to criminality and called on the churches to help fight crime, but crime remains rampant.
Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck has stated that the Government is determined to use all measures necessary to reduce crime and violence, and that getting wrongdoers to accept responsibility is the essence of restorative justice, but the crime rate remains the same.
Our current Minister of Security Dr Horace Chang has said the Government will be redoubling its efforts to introduce key reforms that will help to tame Jamaica's crime. But, alas, crime remains untamed.
It is clear that these 'lyrics', past and present, are recycled histrionic performances which underestimate the intelligence of our Jamaican citizens and are more suited for consumption by uncivilised folks in the mountainous regions of a rainforest.
The fact is, politicians believe that baseless words are as potent as bullets; meetings and media platform presentations are as rewarding as the perpetrator's loot; and theatrical performances are as advantageous to them as the sentences doled out are to the criminals. They do not have the guts to make unpopular, unprecedented changes that will benefit the citizens of the country.
The Government, alone, has the power to change, enact, and enforce the laws needed to make convincted criminals pay the price for their actions but they refuse to do so, either because they prefer to go along with the status quo of ineffective governance and epistemic limitations, or they are convinced that the people of Jamaica have restricted cranial capacities.
If this is not the case then the laws should be implemented to make guns and other serious crimes attract a mandatory prison sentence.
When a criminal is given a suspended sentence, or is fined for a serious crime, it appears that the criminal justice system is focused on short-term economic benefits, rather than on the punishment of the crime. The system benefits by collecting revenue and the perpetrators walk free and are ready to resume illegal activities. They get smarter and learn to avoid getting caught again, while the victims live in perpetual psychological terror.
This is not justice.
Perpetrators of serious crimes, such as rapes, murders, illegal possession of guns, narcotics, among others, should be tried within a few months and, if found guilty by the courts, imprisoned based on substantial minimum or maximum sentencing guidelines.
Justices should not have the leeway to impose a fine or suspend a sentence. This is counterproductive and their professional judgement should be based on imposing the prison sentence within strict guidelines.
When this is done, the economy will boom, police killings will be minimised, crimes will be reduced, vigilante justice will become a memory, and businesses will operate without fear.
Dr Curtis Webley is an entrepreneur in Chicago, Illinois. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com
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