R. Rose
July 16, 2004

We got to be in it …

My apologies to my faithful readers for the absence of this column these past three weeks due to pressing duties abroad and then on the home front. Let me crave your forgiveness.
This is the week when the National Lotteries Authority is at last bringing off its big SET FOR LIFE draw. There have been public criticisms of both the postponement of the draw from its original date and the use of a Jouvert band for promotional purposes. {{more}} What is more important for those awaiting the draw is the old Lotto adage – “You got to be in it to win it”.
Just as that slogan crossed my mind, the news of the ground-breaking ceremony for a new prison was being broadcast. The reassuring words about how “secure, safe and humane”, the new prison will be and the proud announcements about what sort of facilities the new “Correctional Centre” (to be politically correct) will feature. All very nice and good, I thought, but first YOU GOT TO BE IN IT!
Here is where many citizens have legitimate concerns. Save the political fanatics of one sort or another whose blinkers prevent them from even seeing the track ahead of them, we are all concerned as citizens about crime, justice, crime prevention, apprehension, punishment (yes sometimes that is also necessary) and correction. We can argue over whether we should spend ten, twenty or fifty million on a prison we can agree or disagree on its location, but all reasonable citizens would long have come to the conclusion that the Kingstown facility has long outlived its usefulness. Former AG, Mr. P.R. Campbell can only be having a wry smile when he hears the date. We wanted to roast him some years ago for proposing the new prison.
The need for a proper prison was palpably demonstrated during the long prison unrest which plagued the last days of the previous administration. The ineffectiveness of the prison system both as a deterrent to further crime and as such as a rectifying force in the society is clear for all to see. So it doesn’t take much calculation (except the cost of the prison) to know that ACTION or the prison issue is long overdue.
But herein lies a problem. The prison debate is taking place in the context of continuing lawlessness, acts of violence, racketeering, drugs and crime. While the “modern” thinkers in our midst (I use modern guardedly) advocate an end to the death penalty, many of the rest of us, concerned about wilful murder, rape, abduction and the taking of innocent lives in public, are not prepared to let go of what we see as the ultimate deterrent.
What we as ordinary citizens worry most about is that it seems as though MUDERERS HAVE A LICENSE TO KILL, that people can commit wanton acts and walk away SCOT-FREE. For us to talk of prison therefore, and of prison reform, and correctional institution, we have to first get the criminals behind bars. That’s why the slogan ‘YOU HAVE TO BE IN IT ….” is so appropriate.
It is not for us to cast any judgment on the verdict of the courts, not for us to pronounce guilty or not, but we know what’s happening out here on the streets, in the communities. Long ago if a person was seriously wronged, you would hear them say “If wasn’t for prison, ah would ah do….” so and so. Or in more extreme circumstances, “If dey never used to hang people, ah would a …….” Not today. Men threatening innocent citizens even while being whisked off to jail. Others openly bragging how they will kill and “get off”.
We have every reason to be concerned. Our concern therefore extends to resources to be donated to crime prevention, to addressing the causes of crime, to saving our youth from becoming monsters. Are we doing enough in this regard? Equally there are those of us who feel that we are not sending a clear enough signal that we are ‘TOUGH ON CRIME”, to quote the governing ULP. Citizens are being forced to live in fear, afraid to speak out against lawlessness, terrified to give testimony in court, petrified when called upon to give jury service.
The solutions are not easy to come by, but we cannot afford to shy away from the challenges. Prevention, remedial measures, and heavy manners in upholding the law are all part of the package. We must make our society secure and not bow to the dictates of the lawless. It calls for our total involvement as citizens. In the battle against crime, “WE MUST BE IN IT TO WIN IT”.