Causes and Solutions of Our Crime Problem

Submitted by DAVID  COMISSIONG, Citizen of Barbados

CAUSES

Barbados owes a great debt of gratitude to Ms Cheryl Willoughby, Director of the Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit (CJRPU), Ms Sabrina Roach, Research Officer at the CJRPU, and to Mr Sanka Price, Nation Newspaper reporter, for so clearly outlining the fundamental causes of our country’s crime problem in two articles published in the Nation Newspaper of Tuesday 26th February 2019!

The critical points made in the articles are as follows:-

  1. National crime statistics reveal that a majority of criminal law offenders are alumni of a group of some seven (7) newer secondary schools – schools that are allocated the lowest achieving academic performers in the Common Entrance examination.
  2. Many low academic achievers are lumped together in these schools, but are not given any assistance or resources over and above those that are given to more academically gifted students, and are subjected to the same academic programme and pace as their more academically gifted peers.
  3. Many of the low academic achievers who are lumped together have additional issues pertaining to behavioural problems, poor anger management capacity, and poverty, hunger and other “family risk factors” in the home environment, but are not given any special assistance to address these issues.
  4. Classes at these newer secondary schools typically contain 30 academically challenged students and are so problematical that the teacher is often faced with addressing the myriad of deficiencies the students are afflicted with and is therefore unable to spend adequate time on teaching his or her subject.
  5. Some of the outcomes of this state of affairs are as follows:-

a) Many of these students never even complete their secondary education – some are expelled; some leave of their own volition; and others are asked by the school authorities to leave when they reach 16 years of age, even though they might not yet have even entered the 5th

b) A great majority of those who manage to make it to 5th form and to graduate leave school without any academic qualifications.

c) Many of these students leave school without having acquired basic skills of reading and writing, thereby making it difficult for them to pursue post-secondary school skills-based vocational training.

6)   One consequence of these students’ failure to achieve basic levels of literacy and numeracy is feelings of shame and related manifestations of violent and aggressive behaviour.

7)      A national study of 200 criminal offenders has revealed as follows:-

a) 59 percent of them had not completed their secondary education;

b) 54 out of the 200 had been expelled from school; 52 left of their own volition; and several others were asked to leave once they reached 16 years of age.

8)      Many of the young criminal offenders that this dysfunctional education system produces are imbued with the following ideas and values:-

a) Owning a gun – an illegal one at that – is now considered to be the “in thing” – a prized component of “a fashion trend and culture”.

b) For some, however, owning a gun is also an indispensable instrument of “protection” and/or “self-defence”, since they are engaged in criminal activity or are otherwise a target of violence because of their association with particular individuals or because they live in certain communities.

Surely, the foregoing must, and will be, treated as a “wake up call” by our Government in general, and by our Ministry of Education in particular !

SOLUTIONS

On at least two occasions in the recent past, I have produced newspaper articles which admonished our authorities to recognize that the sad reality is that too many of our children and adolescents are not being sufficiently nurtured, cared for, and prepared for life in our Barbadian schools.

I also recommended that we establish a programme to examine all of our schools, with a view to determining where we need smaller classes, more individual attention for students, a greater teacher to student ratio, remedial education teachers, an expanded curriculum, more technical, vocational and artistic training and certification, the assistance of psychologists and/or guidance counsellors, organized interventions in the deficient home environments of “at risk” students, and the list goes on.

And since we will be doing so against a background of our Government being cash-strapped and hard pressed to find additional resources to put into our schools, we should then enlist the assistance of all relevant civil society organizations – our Parent/Teacher Associations, Old Scholar Associations, service clubs (the many chapters of the Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary, and Optimist clubs), philanthropic organizations, private sector businesses, trade unions, churches, relevant professional organizations, the Barbados Association of Retired Persons, retired educators, Barbadian diaspora organizations – to act urgently on the results of such an examination and to give the necessary assistance to our schools.

Surely we can imagine an Emergency Programme in which Boards of Management of schools and their new supportive partners construct new classrooms utilizing inexpensive plywood material in order to accommodate smaller classes, and bringing on board retired teachers who are prepared to donate perhaps a couple of half days a week to teaching struggling students, and such like remedial or rescue measures.

Let us also determine how we can so restructure the content of our educational programme that we do a much better job of instilling in our students an acceptance and appreciation of themselves as sacred beings; a deep respect and regard for humanity/other human beings; a sense of personal responsibility; and a notion of duty to family, community, nation, humanity.

And since we have already acknowledged that our Government is currently in a condition in which it will find it difficult to come up with additional financial resources, I would like to propose that all Barbadian citizens who are in a financial position that enables them to make charitable donations should not only be encouraged to do so, but should be further encouraged to adopt a Barbadian school as their charity of choice!

Indeed, I would wish to urge our local banks and credit unions and our Ministry of Education to collaborate on putting a mechanism in place that makes such philanthropic giving easy and convenient. The mechanism I have in mind is a system in which individual schools are permitted to open accounts at the various banks and credit unions, and citizens who are the holders of accounts at the said banks and credit unions are provided with forms which they can sign authorizing their bank or credit union to make automatic monthly deductions from the citizen’s account and pay it into the school’s account.

I envisage citizens who can afford it giving a standard monthly donation that they can accommodate without any undue distress.

If we all put our hands to the plough I am certain that we can intervene decisively in this growing problem of criminal delinquency and transform Barbados into the wholesome, inclusive, nurturing and humane society that it deserves to be.

231 comments

  • Another Bajan ‘expert’ on crime. Now sport it that is the answer; get rid of the seven culprit schools; according to the prime minster the Pine is a favela (this appalling nonsense after a 30/0 electoral victory); lack of parenting skills, according to the church; low academic achievements, according to our ‘criminologists’; we can go on.
    Why doesn’t anyone stop to analyse all these statements?..

    Co-operators General Insurance general manager Anton Lovell believes sports can be used to combat the recent spike in crime by engaging young people in positive activity.
    Lovell expressed the sentiment this week while addressing local basketball’s opening ceremony following last week’s latest shooting.
    “These days we hear a lot about serious crimes and gun violence amongst the youth, yet I’ve heard no one put forward as one of the solutions the need to pay greater attention for emphasis and provide more funding into sports programmes, which will provide avenues for the youth to be positively engaged,” Lovell said. (Quote)

    Like

  • AND AGAIN!!!!!

    16-year-old shot dead

    Police have identified last night’s shooting victim as that of 16-year-old Ashton Renaldo Forde, of Green Hill Main Road, St Michael

    http://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/238911/update-shot-dead

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  • @Hants

    We have discussed the murders many time. It will not go away because we throw more police in the field. Our society is broken and we have not been focussing over the years how to pull it back. We are a crisis mode people in the region. Note region, this is a pan Caribbean issue.

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  • Condolences to the family and friends of Ashton Renaldo Forde.

    Like

  • It is with a deep sense of sadness that most Barbadians awake – today – to learn of another violent death in their country.

    Only David BU & Darwin Dottin not overly perturbed by this dreaded situation !!

    This time it is the murder of a teenager !

    Whilst Darwin Dottin – crime Czar – continues to earn his big pay packet …..whilst innocent lives are wasted away !

    This is the 12th murder……since Darwin Dottin has returned to ‘ public life ‘

    Stop the ROTTIN !

    Fire DOTTIN !

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  • In a matter of days, Government will begin to reconstruct negatively perceived street corners, known as blocks, as its highly touted ‘Building Blocks’ programme begins.

    Minister of Youth and Constituency Empowerment Adrian Forde told reporters that as the voices of hundreds of neglected youth were being ignored, they were being pushed toward ‘block culture’. He added that 30 per cent of youth between the age of 18 and 35 are currently unemployed leaving them desperately in need of the “tools of empowerment”.

    https://barbadostoday.bb/2019/03/16/block-programme-set-to-hit-the-streets/

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  • If the unemployment rate for 18-35 yr olds (a rather strange cohort) is 30 per cent (a revised figure), what is the age cohort for most of the violent crime? May be the criminologists have another explanation for violent crime causation

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  • 🙂
    Revenue law
    Codrongton College
    Nursing
    Teaching…
    Is this lexicon next id?
    🙂

    Seriously, you do a good job of defending your point of view

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  • That mystery shooting sounds suspicious

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  • TheO,

    Not nursing. Teaching. The nursing was my mother. Did three languages including Latin at school. Went on to do the natural sciences. Switched to the social sciences at university level and the law courses were mandatory.

    The theology was exploratory to becoming a priest. I decided that I was too much of a rebel for that.

    I have been a compulsive reader from the age of five. It is cheaper to let me loose in a boutique than in a bookstore. Always enjoy a good documentary and a good lecture. Often read research papers online. Was watching Errol and Tom debate from the age of twelve and thoroughly enjoying the quality of the debate and the witty repartee.

    I just love to know and my biggest problem has been choosing what to leave out.

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  • donna
    you sound like one mix up woman doah lol
    but I love you still murdah
    tell Theo to stop gazing at you, if he dont want a fight………
    keep sweet

    Like

  • PIGHEAD,

    So now you are switching your argument. That is not what you were arguing..

    The forward slash is often used to denote interchangeability or similarity these days. There is also another use. But that was not how you were using it, Or you would have said so before now instead of arguing against a point that I never made.

    I was expecting you to seize on precisely that point to try to wriggle out. You are no longer a challenge. Too predictable.

    Aggressive tax avoidance is aggressive tax avoidance. You did not say aggressive tax avoidance. Tax avoidance is still legal. It simply means taking advantage of all deductions that are available under the law and arranging your affairs to pay the least possible tax. Aggressive tax avoidance steps outside of the spirit of the law. or what the law intended.

    We were speaking in the context of the USA which means things like this are still quite legal apparently. See what Trump does with his liability write off under bankruptcy. That should be income since you have received a benefit in having the liabilities written off. But what did he do? He took double benefits. Loopholes, he calls them. Makes him a smart man, he says.

    But……bribing and then writing off the bribe as a charitable deduction is not tax avoidance because the initial act was illegal and the bribe was to benefit the briber and is therefore not charity.

    ABC.

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  • The forward slash is often used to denote interchangeability or similarity these days. There is also another use. But that was not how you were using it, Or you would have said so before now instead of arguing against a point that I never made.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++

    Still hanging on every word I say!!!!

    … even a slash seems to excite you!!

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  • john
    cant you see that Donna loves you man?
    SHE LOVES QUAKER MEN! murdah

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  • Whatever it is she got she got it bad!!

    Like

  • QDS … Quaker Derangement Syndrone.

    Possibly a combination of TDS and QDS ….. no known cure!!

    Just an opinion from a non medical person.

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  • A happy good morning to all of Barbados

    @John
    What if the the T is for Twistorian
    and the Q is for Quibbler
    Seems like that might fit
    Just an opinion from a spectator

    Again, happy good morning to all (twistorians, historians and others)

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  • Why do men always come with that tired stuff???????

    Have some originality! That is in the league of “You need a man in your life!”

    True TheO, I do have a love or compulsion for untwisting the Twistology of the Twistorian.

    I pursued 45 govt with equal vigour. I pursue Lawson when necessary. GP and I have constant prolonged battles. (But we does still ‘gree.) Go figure!
    .
    Clearly it is the subject matter I am drawn to and not the person.

    I find it easier to abstain from sex than from debate. Anyone who knows me would confirm that. I’m weird that way.

    PS. The only Quaker I love is the man on the Quaker Oats box. Thanks for reminding me to get some.

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  • Cases in point TheO,

    Recently I started a political discussion with an old pensioner (not my type at all) who I met in a public place. He invited me to sit beside him for ease of discussion. Soon after, he ran his hand quickly up my leg and offered me some of his England pension. My willingness to engage him in conversation was mistaken taken for interest in him.

    I collaborated with an elderly married man (again, not my type) on a creative arts project at my church some years ago. I was very enthusiastic about the project and gave it my all. We were the last ones to leave the office on the day of the production. While I was attempting to solve a last minute problem with a costume he grabbed me and kissed me quickly on the lips. He mistook my interest in the project for interest in him.

    And this one takes the cake. One morning many years ago I passed a familiar young man on his way to work standing in heavy rain without protection at a bus stop near my home. I offered him a lift. After a few minutes drive out comes the question he had been mulling over.

    “Wuh you stop fuh me fuh? You like me or what?”

    Standing in heavy rain without protection ????????????????????????????????? Hello???????

    Men! SMH

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  • Reserve forward slashes for simultaneous word combinations.
    Can both of the things you need to combine exist simultaneously? If so, the forward slash is appropriate. If those things can’t exist simultaneously (or you don’t mean for them to exist simultaneously in your text), the forward slash requires conjunctions.

    Good: The visiting painter/philosopher lectured the class for three hours.
    Someone can be a painter and a philosopher simultaneously.

    Problematic: The politician forgot to pack her pants/skirts for her campaign tour.
    With the exception of a questionable piece of fashion called the skort, the politician’s forgotten clothing can only be pants or skirts or a mix of pants and skirts—but the individual items can’t simultaneously be both pants and skirts. In this case, the conjunction or would be a better solution: The politician forgot to pack pants or skirts for her campaign tour.

    This is the everyday usage. This person put it better than I did.

    See! I have no problem admitting these things.

    Like

  • Two more shot in St.Phillip.

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  • @ David,

    I just saw that in the Nation. A sad state of affairs in Barbados.

    Like

  • Suppose I start using a backslash … like this \ and not /

    How would you interpret its meaning?

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  • Police have identified the victims in tonight’s double homicide at Rices, St Philip. They are 52-year-old Betty Mayers and her 32-year-old son Jamal Mayers of the same address.

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  • When is Buju coming to town? Could someone ask him to bring a copy of the Jamaican Gun law with him so we copycats can tinker with it to negate such niceties as the Constitution and restore some normality ‘bout this place since prayers are not working and its too early to tell if the 11+ has any effect.

    If the situation continues in this vein it may lead to cancellation of “we gathering” unless someone wants to suspend the State of Emergency that may arise over the coming months in the meantime the welcoming sign at the Airport may be updated to read

    WELCOME TO BARBADOS

    ”DUCK”

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  • HANTS IS THE NATION’S RE-REPORTER

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  • Here is an example pf how a legislator, despite the level of education, can be stupid and barbaric. To call for the death penalty in the early 21st century is uncivilised and dumb. It is taking the easy way out. This woman ought to be barred from public life.

    Nationwide outrage at the latest of a score of murders committed so far this year reached fever-pitch on the floor of the House of Assembly today in a rare outburst by a sitting lawmaker, a medical doctor, who called for the gunmen to be put to death.
    MP for St Philip North Dr Sonia Browne, who said her daughter was present at Sheraton Centre Mall “the day before” the brazen execution-style slaying of a St Philip man, further declared that any perpetrator who shoots at the police “should not live to tell the story” and she says capital punishment must be put back on the table.
    The backbencher said to the House: “I today will speak the truth and nothing but the truth.
    “Criminals are no longer afraid of the law. We have people shooting at police officers then the public defends it. In my mind, if you shoot at a police officer you should not live to tell about it that is how I feel about it.”
    The physician-legislator said crime was at the top of her list because it was hitting too close to home and criminals do not fear punishment.
    “Crime is top of my list. My daughter was there [Sheraton Centre] the day before that shooting happened. I could have been the mother getting called. Just the other day a neighbour, walking distance from me, was stabbed to death. Right beside my property somebody was held up at gunpoint. This is a serious situation and it is hitting a little too close to home. We have people running into the polyclinics with guns. It is gross disrespect they don’t fear punishment.”
    Declaring that drastic times should be addressed by drastic measures she repeatedly asked what was the position with capital punishment in the country.
    “What has become of capital punishment? It cannot only be about the rights of the murderers it has to be about the rights of the victims. It is not easy for a mother or father or sibling to hear that a relative was raped dragged through a canefield, throat cut, foot cut off and then Amnesty International would come and say you have to think about the murderer. We have too many lawyers around, many in here.
    “What about capital punishment? I was never a supporter of it but I believe drastic times deserve drastic measures.”
    The first-term backbencher then appeared to break from the administration’s recently launched policy to provide entrepreneurship tools to mostly unemployed young people who loiter on street corners, the so-called blocks
    While praising the Ministry of Youth and Community Empowerment’s Building Blocks programme she objected to the very term, “blocks”.
    Dr Browne said: “We have to face the harsh reality that the majority of the crime comes from the blocks. However much we would like to deny it they are where the drugs come in or used and sold. I really would like the term block knocked off.
    “I don’t like the ‘block’ initiative; I don’t like the ‘blocktrepeneurs’. I did a bit of research and the other countries don’t call them blocks. I think we need to take them off the blocks as oppose to patronising the blocks put them in a classroom setting get rid of the term blocks . . . .”(Quote)

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  • RE
    Here is an example pf how a legislator, despite the level of education, can be stupid and barbaric. To call for the death penalty in the early 21st century is uncivilised and dumb. It is taking the easy way out. This woman ought to be barred from public life.

    MUSCLE BRAIN
    WHEN YOU WENT TO SCHOOL AT ST GILES DID THEY EVER TEACH YOU ANYTHING ABOUT A BOOK CALLED THE BIBLE?

    IN THIS BOOK IT IS NOTEWORTHY THAT GOD CALLS FOR THE DEATH PENALTY FOR MURDER

    To call for the death penalty in the early 21st century is DEFINITELY NOT uncivilised and dumb

    IT SEEMS TO ME THAT despite the level of education, FOLK HAVE BECOME stupid and barbaric

    ROMANS 1 18 ONWARDS TELLS US WHAT IS WRONG WITH OUR ENLIGTHENED EDUCATED SOCITIES WITH THEIR BRAINS FILLED WITH MUSCLE TISSUE LIKE YOURS

    READ CAREFULLY AND SEE IF YOU DONT FIND YOURSELF INCLUDED IN THE DESCRIPTION

    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

    19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

    20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

    21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

    22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

    23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

    24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

    25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

    26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

    27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

    28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

    29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

    30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

    31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

    32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

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  • THIS IS WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT THE PUNISHMENT OF MURDERERS

    BUT THIS WAS BEFORE PEOPLE BECAME EDUCATED
    OR BEFORE THE 21ST CENTURY
    OR BEFORE THE TIME OF SAGES LIKE HAL AUSTIN WHO HAS MUSCLE IN HIS BRAIN

    Genesis 9:6
    “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.
    Leviticus 24:17
    “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death.
    Exodus 21:12
    “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.
    Numbers 35:30-31
    “If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses. But no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness. Moreover, you shall accept no ransom for the life of a murderer, who is guilty of death, but he shall be put to death.
    Matthew 5:21
    “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’

    Revelation 21:8
    But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

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  • Drug abuse and drug trafficking are responsible for rising levels of violence and gun-related crimes, including an unprecedented hike in murders this year, according to Government research.
    But this path to violence is being paved in primary school as children are introduced to drugs and crime, the research suggests.
    The head of the Criminal Justice & Research Planning Unit Cheryl Willoughby said today the research points to a strong correlation between the drug trade and the illicit firearm trade which not only affects individuals and families but also society in general given the island’s dependence on tourism and foreign investment.
    Willoughby’s remarks came this afternoon at a prize-giving for the Wilkie Cumberbatch Primary School’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E) programme, held at Prince Cave Hall, at the Police District ‘A’ Complex.
    The Government’s chief criminologist called on Barbadians both on the island and across the diaspora to assist with charting more productive paths and opportunities for young people.
    She said: “Drug abuse generates complex social problems which must be addressed using a holistic model.
    “This model should include a treatment component aimed at giving non-violent offenders the best possible opportunity to rehabilitate and become productive citizens.
    “The Drug Treatment Court provides this opportunity and continues to do an excellent job at giving young drug offenders a second chance.”
    The crime research unit’s director commended the DARE programme for performing a vital role in educating young people about drugs and diverting them from the criminal justice system.
    She said the contents of the DARE programme, including aspects of decision making; risk and consequences; peer pressure, communication skills and bullying, were areas that address a number of risk factors to violent crime identified in her unit’s research.
    She said it was important that programmes targeting vulnerable populations be guided by research evidence to ensure that the most critical areas for intervention received the required resources.
    Willoughby told the graduands that the DARE programme provided them with all the necessary information and skills that would allow them to make wise decisions about their health and the importance of being a productive citizen.
    She cautioned the students that there was no real magic to success, which only comes with hard work on the part of parents, teachers and students.
    “It takes sacrifice, dedications and most importantly the ability to stand alone for what is right and wholesome. Sometimes we are tempted to give up and give in to peer pressure when things become tough,” she said.
    Willoughby also turned her attention to parents whom she said were best placed to keep their children safe from drugs and help them develop skills they will need to make positive choices.
    “This can only be achieved if parents are empowered to assume their responsibility and lead the cause by being positive role models for their children.
    “Research has shown that children of offenders often follow in their parents’ footsteps and become part of the criminal justice system.
    “In other words, the fruit does not fall too far from the tree,” she said.
    DARE’s facilitator Police Inspector Roland Cobbler commented that he daily encounters young people who openly admit to drug use.
    He highlighted the Criminal Justice Research & Planning Unit’s research finding that initiation into drug use for children in Barbados was occurring as early as primary school.
    The Royal Barbados Police Force is concerned with the development since the prevalence of drug use by children has the potential to threaten the stability of society, he said.
    Acting Inspector Cobbler declared: “It is, therefore, my belief that this Drug Abuse Resistance Education programme affectionately known as DARE, provides the requisite knowledge and skills to assist our children in making the right choices.”
    Certificates of participation were handed out to 72 Wilkie Cumberbatch students during the graduation ceremony.
    Skyla Weithers received the top awards for being the Most Outstanding 2019 DARE student at the national level and at the school.(Quote)

    This is the kind of criminological nonsense that passes as serious scholarship in Barbados. If the path to drug-related crime starts in the primary school (at age five), then why not say it starts in the womb, or in the home?
    There is a Bajan world, punching above your weight, and a real world. Do our crime research read any of the works coming out of other countries, especially more developed countries? I suggest a crash course in critical criminology; or Radical criminology. If they have evidence that children are introduced to drugs in primary school (aged between five and seven), then they have a civic duty to report this to the police. Have they done so.
    This is the same mob that blamed seven secondary schools for the rise in crime. The above nonsense apart, how do they define crime? Just drug-related, gun-re elated, domestic, rum-related? How about verbal aggression? Who remembers the 2010 report that claims that gangs in Barbados were affiliated to big US gangs, a report written by a junior police officer.
    We know that is not true, because prison officer still continue to escort hand-cuffed remanded and convicted men (and a few women) through an open court yard. Hardened gangsters would move in on them and free their pals in a jiffy. That lack of proper security alone tells us Barbadians are largely still law-abiding.

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  • Compulsory reading for angry magistrates who keep on jailing young black men and so-called criminologists.

    How the War on Drugs Kept Black Men Out of College

    A new study finds that federal drug policy didn’t just send more black men to jail—it also locked them out of higher education.
    Tamara Gilkes Borr

    Rhe War on Drugs locked up thousands of black men, and a new study finds that it may have also locked many out of the college classroom—and all the benefits that come with a college degree.

    There was a time when black men’s college enrollment was gaining ground, as compared to white men’s. From 1980 to 1985, college enrollment among black men ages 18 to 24 grew slightly faster than it did for their white peers.
    However, the upward trend started to reverse for black men after the passage of the Anti–Drug Abuse Act of 1986. According to the study, the probability a black man would enroll in college declined by 10 percent due to the passage of the law, from 22 percent to 20 percent, after researchers controlled for other factors, such as changes in the state-level unemployment rates and the costs of college. The study, written by the University of California, Berkeley professor Tolani Britton, appears to be the first to establish a direct link between ’80s drug laws and college achievement.
    As the government spent more money sending black men to prison, it devoted fewer resources to programs that would have helped the formerly incarcerated reenter society after they were released.
    In 1996, Bill Clinton’s administration passed a law barring drug felons from support services such as food stamps and welfare. Without the added economic security these programs provide, the formerly incarcerated are likely to struggle to pay for college on their own: 44 percent of community-college students are employed part- or full-time.
    The War on Drugs also includes a slate of policies that make it nearly impossible for someone with a drug conviction to access financial aid for college.
    In 1994, the Clinton administration passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which made prisoners ineligible for Pell grants, educational grants that help low-income people pay for postsecondary education— including college programs specifically offered in prisons.
    In addition, the 1998 aid-elimination amendment to the Higher Education Act denied any federal aid to students who were convicted on drug-related charges while receiving federal aid, further limiting financial aid to drug felons.* While Pell grants were experimentally reintroduced to some prisoners in 2015 by Barack Obama’s administration, most incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people are still ineligible for federal aid today.
    What’s more, prior convictions can block students from admission to college. Some colleges ask for a criminal history in their application process, and studies have found that having a conviction dramatically decreases the likelihood of admission, even when controlling for all other factors.
    Without a college degree, steady employment, and support services, formerly incarcerated people struggle to rebuild their life. Fifty percent of felons are rearrested, and 25 percent are re-incarcerated within eight years of their initial release from prison. Access to education could lower these high recidivism rates. Prison education has been found to reduce re-incarceration by 13 percentage points and increase the odds of employment by 13 percent.
    These prison education programs also benefit society. According to the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit research institute that advocates against mass incarceration, the programs save American taxpayers $366 million a year by reducing recidivism; increase public safety by reducing crime; and support businesses by providing a trained workforce.
    However, only 6 percent of incarcerated people have access to a college program at their institution today. Programs such as Sinclair Community College at Dayton Correctional Institute and the Prison University Project at San Quentin State Prison, where I previously taught a course, provide college education to inmates.
    But these programs are limited without federal funding, relying mostly on state-correctional-department support, volunteers, and philanthropy to run effectively. Federal funding of prison education can provide consistency to these programs.
    Critics ask why federal money should be spent on educating felons while law-abiding citizens also have limited access to higher education. Initiatives such as Elizabeth Warren’s free-college proposal can address this issue for Americans broadly, but ultimately fail to address the specific, damaging effects of the War on Drugs.
    “We as a society need to increase not just access but success in postsecondary education for people who are incarcerated or formerly-incarcerated,” Britton says. “Because that is one of the few ways for people to change not only their outcomes, but their children’s life outcomes.”

    This article has been corrected to reflect that formerly incarcerated individuals are not ineligible for Pell grants. Additionally, only students who were on federal aid at the time of a drug-related conviction are ineligible for aid, not all students with these convictions.
    We want to hear what you think about this article.

    Tamara Gilkes Borr is is a doctoral candidate in Stanford’s Graduate School of Education. (Quote)

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