Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Capital Punishment in the Caribbean. Is this the real solution to crime in the region?

I had a moment to sit and ponder the recent countrywide decision in Jamaica a few weeks back, where they agreed to keep capital punishment. Assuming that capital punishment went no where, why was/is Jamaica is still a major crime capital in the region and world? The Bahamas has been grappling with the same issue at an even more feverish pace, since the last three years crime, murder in particular, have spiked to un-Godly levels.

This leads to an argument about capital punishment; that it is, in fact, a deterrent to crime. Actually, from the looks of what type of punishment allowed to continue in Jamaica, capital punishment is clearly not. Jamaica ranks third in the highest amount of murders per capita in the world. Has been for years now, although the last hanging took place in the late 80's. The argument is that it was hardly used and hence the need to "bring hanging back". But, before and, most likely, after it is re-constituted, I have a feeling that crime would not abate. I don't want to sound like a pessimist, but crime goes hand in hand with alot of other factors that have absolutely nothing to do with fear of punishment.

I would say, quite boldly, why would I feel fear or have fear, from doing something as passionate as murder, when it's something I really wanted to do or had to do? So what about the punishment? I killed that guy and that makes me feel better.

Even now proponents of capital punishment, have stopped using it as an argument because the idea of the deterrence of crime and capital punishment, cannot be correlated on any statistical relation and in my estimation, logical basis. For one reason, how do you deter someone from committing a crime they committed? This back to the future type of mentality is simply science fiction.

The second plank for the deterrence argument, sets out to suggest that folks who may commit capital crimes, would be deterred by visible and swift hangings. Fact is, this is not the case at all. Statistics from every capital punishment jurisdiction to non capital punishment jurisdiction, do not find any correlation with lower capital offences than it is with higher capital offences. In fact, there is no evidence to suggest anything to do with "punishment" and "crime" at all. The basis for it is simply neither here nor there.

How did we begin to assume capital punishment has anything to do with deterring crime? Well, it is one of the great logical fallacies of the 20th century. Something where developed societies, grappled with it and, have ended their long standing position on any defence of its effectiveness. It's only the developing world that believes capital punishment in some way deters crime. Perhaps it is a reason why they are perpetually called developing?

This leads to a second stream of thought debouched on the merits of capital punishment. And, that is the self degradation of developing countries by the proponents, who say, outright, their society is not as established as the developed countries--so, this is why they have to employ capital punishment tactics, in an attempt to reign in bad elements of their society. This is one of thee most far out ideas I have ever heard used in this debate. This argument holds as much water- and is just as effective- as the old colonial racial tactic of "breeding out" the slave population by the white master, which was then seen as the only way to "clean" the black race. It's laughable to see capital punishment proponents, switch the argument, just to make it fit into whatever rationale they have about social living and crime. Unbelievable.

Fact of the matter is however, crime, yet again, is in developed countries and regions as it is in developing societies and some developing societies, have low crime rates in spite of the capital punishment mechanism or without.

There simply is no statistical correlation with developed and developing countries, to say, on any level, or, any time, that that can hold up as an argument. There is crime in New York city, where they have abolished the death penalty and crime has spiked and declined, just as easily, without the manipulation of the death penalty apparatus or argument espoused. The highest rise in murder rates in the US was in Kansas, between the period of 1996-2007. Are proponents trying to suggest that rural, peace loving Kansas State, is more backward than New York in regards to civilization? For example

The death penalty is not employed in the United Kingdom and certainly not in England. But, crime is relatively low per-capita than any other country. Why is that? Same can be said in France.

Even when proponents make the immigrant argument in developed countries in relation to developing countries and lack of civilization, you would have difficulty making the argument. East London has a higher immigrant population than most other parts of the UK and its crime statistics, are equally comparable to that of Birmingham or Scotland, where crime is equally as high with lower levels of immigrants. In fact, Scotland is the murder capital of the UK, with higher murder rates per-capita than in any other part of the UK.

The same mixed bag of conflicting theories can be found in the varying US states, as the differences between Kansas and New York, on that level, simply do not have comparable variables. Kansas has a lower immigrant population per volume and per-capita than that of New York. So, what exactly are we trying to say? Nothing.

Fact of the matter is- and sorry to have to burst the proponents of capital punishment's bubble again- that there simply is no relation between murder and capital punishment, to suggest it as a deterrent, on any level, for any reason--long term or short term.

So, we really have to discuss the merits of capital punishment, where folks, like this author, see from the end motive of the proponents, even before they arrived to it themselves. And, that is, it is used as a form of retribution and revenge on the murderous thug who killed that innocent victim.

I don't quite understand why folks form particular quarters just don't come out and say it. Say, quite boldly; "we want to kill (but don't have the guts to do it )the person who killed somebody else. It would make feel better, to know that some punk, got killed because he killed someone else."

While I share their pain, and pray for the victims of slain family members--like I have felt the pain and grieved over a family member of mine who was savaged by a gunman--I have a problem with acting in haste and with ill regard, when I speak of this issue. Not that I am trying to protect the young punk who killed. But, because, it moves us away from other root issues for crime and murder and, it does not make enough room, once we start this slippery slope, to deal with people who may have; killed by accident; killed in self defence, but unprovable; were provoked to kill; who killed in the heat of passion and so on and so forth.

Are we really trying to suggest that a man who walks into his house to find his wife in the sweet throe's of passionate love with another man, deserved no true justice and mercy because he killed someone society may have liked and/or loved dearly? A man, who may be an upstanding citizen, who just happens to have had a bad day at the worst time? Does he deserve death, because the person he killed, was someone equally as upstanding and even more so in the society than he was?

I find the lack of mercy and justice and the abuse of the tools of justice, by the same proponents who attempt to make the case that their societies are not as civilized as developed countries and hence, the reason to employ the death penalty, a stark concern. And, I dare to say even further that the abuse of the justice mechanism, with the seemingly pervasiveness of pseudo democracy and lack of transparency in many developing countries, is a concern to be equally voiced in a time where the debate has reached Caribbean wide proportions.

Yes. I said it. Capital punishment in the Caribbean, has reached region wide debate. So, we may as well have a frank an open conversation about it, rather than acting as if these issues, are any different to any of us at any time or on any level. Especially the Anglo-phone Caribbean, who live by, basically, the same code of social conduct handed down to us by our former imperial powers. The same justice system, the same economic system and the same values for life. It's their handed down to us as a one size fit all institution, rather than a society built for our own common understanding on society.

While I have no decisive say in whether or not Jamaica or any other Caribbean country, goes the way of the noose. However, I can't help but sharpen the debate and get to the root theory and motivation behind using such a fatal device, in an attempt, I hope, to get the public to address the real issues with spiking murder rates and crime in general. And, it's not about the bible and it is not about the lack of moral values. It's something allot more stark, but the establishment does not readily face up to it, because it would display failure, perhaps on purpose, to provide basic functions made for a civil society--something where they espouse to be the vanguard of.

It's the economy stupid. No more and no less. Their is and will always be, spikes in the level of criminal activity, with the lack of resources and access to the resources, built for a comfortable human life. In some countries in Africa, corruption, on every level, is accepted because people have no other recourse to deal with their need to survive. Even the phenomenon of urbanization, has its root underpinnings in economic principles--if we are to appreciate the economy, from a greater extent than dollars and cents.

Crime and its linkages to the economy, is so patently obvious, until it pains me to have to write the bold and obvious in this article.

It would be refreshing for folks to face up to the fact that allot of issues, especially in regards to providing a safe, regulated and transparent economy, is out of their hands, or, above their heads and spheres of interest. It would be better to say it and then attempt to boldly bring people, your people, into a discussion on how to move forward with providing equity for all in the market. And you have to do something about it or it will get worse. Yes we can have punishment, but the murder of an innocent is a murder of an innocent. No amount of punishment can bring them back. If the people who are predisposed to crime in general can't eat, or, live to their fullest potential in an orderly society, "their" society, they will be forced to live to their potential outside of that orderly society. Point blank! Their is no fuzzy debate or wedge issue to bring up in regards to it. If you don't include, you exclude. Just so happens that the exclusion, is fatal--in many regards.

What can Caribbean countries do to sure up their economies? I don't have a ready made, cookie cutter response to that. If I did, I would have been making a mint as an economic and social adviser to many a leader in the world. It takes allot of work and thoughtfulness, however. Also however, the answer, is not found in a text book from Harvard and it is not found, in the mandate of the IMF and World Bank--the biggest think tanks in the world. It is found, rather, in the heart of a leader and with his love for his country, to put frameworks around the levels of economic activity within his or her country, to harness that, so people can feel included in their economic process.

Caribbean leadership has to continually be on the hustle for results in the market for all people. An all inclusive society and economy. It has to be their key issue of stewardship. People are literally dying out here and we have to begin taking it death serious. Caribbean countries need leadership, to say, without fear of backlash from the elite establishment and without fear of losing their authority to an increasing economically empowered electorate--and with the intelligence to do it-- "we need to get our economy more productive through total and wholesale domestic liberalization". Forget global liberalization. In fact, that would make issues worse. Open up the market for all and sundry in the domestic sense, first. That does not mean protectionism. But, it simply means liberalization. Not privatization through foreignization. But, true, domestic liberalization. It has to come before globalization in any event. At least it should!

Attractive little catch phrases come to mind when I say domestic liberalization. For example; "we have to create job's at home" or, "you have to buy domestic".

But, while it makes the issue rather simple, in actuality, it is what it is.

Support home base and all within. Or, they don't support you.


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