Submitted by Caleb Pilgrim (the title of the blogmaster inserted by the blogmaster)
Two recent cases compel attention. The first, Judge Vivienne Blake, a Jamaican jurist, among other things, imposed a sentence of 45 years hard labour in a case where a criminal defendant was convicted for slaughtering and beheading a woman in Jamaica. (Hard labour does not appear to be a stranger in the Jamaican judicial system).
The second case involved one Todd, a Barbadian defendant convicted for stealing a salt bread worth BDS 85 cents and facing up to one year in jail.
The Barbadian defendant, Todd, was apparently “well known to the court”. He, Todd, was however correct in his representation – we assume he was pro se – that it makes no sense for the Magistrate to sentence him for up to a year in jail for stealing a salt bread worth a mere BDS 85 cents. The Government, Todd argues, then has to pay BDS $100 per day to accommodate him and any other prisoner.
In addition to his “free” board and lodging, the prisoner has the advantage of spending his Christmas, presumably quality time of sorts, enjoying a sumptuous meal and other benefits. He even quarrels, righteously, from time to time, if he cannot get to eat fine food prepared and brought to him by a relative, and, inclusive of pictures, makes the local press.
Sadly, it therefore appears that the Barbadian tax payer is being held hostage to the criminal commando class. (Let us leave aside white collar crime and what the Chinese label “economic crimes”” for the moment). Clearly, the prisoner has you – the tax payer – by the balls, with your balls caught in a serious, ever tightening, unyielding, financial vise. He is like a giant boa constrictor squeezing the life out of you, while we bleat faintly like a dying sheep, with not a Samaritan in sight to rescue the hapless and beleaguered Bajan tax payer.
Kindly understand that I do not mean to be too retro. Nor do I support the extra-judicial actions of a Buterse or a Bolsonaro. But, as I have long argued hard labour (“enhanced occupational therapy”, if you will), should be readily available in any magistrate’s repertoire of solutions to the problem of increasing crime and lawlessness in Barbados.
I argue, further, that the Barbados Constitution, “the supreme law of the land”, and Art . 14 et seq, possibly contemplated such an eventuality and permits this solution.
But, instead, we grope about as if in a thick, dark London fog. Like some latter day Francis Micawber, we hope that “something will turn up”. But, nothing turns up. Rather, we continue along a slippery path, as if on our way to becoming just another banana republic, this time without any bananas.
Imagine a couple of miscreant, Bajan bandits. They successfully rob a Campus Trendz store. They then fire bomb the store, as they escape, killing six “whole” young women. At the rate of $100 per day, room and board, the figures soon run into several hundreds of thousands of dollars. After a while, the figures add up. Multiply this also by the number of guests at the Her Majesty’s Dodds.
For the citizen tax payer then, it appears all costs, no benefits.
As to the prisoners volunteered for hard labour, there are ample opportunities. They can clean up the beaches filled with Sargassum weed, as well as the litter on the highways and byways of Barbados; re-paint and/or power wash public buildings in need of repair, including hospital(s), polyclinics, schools, etc; beyond the Dodds’ farm, they can be encouraged to engage in more productive farming – growing (and eventually harvesting) yams, potatoes, beets, lettuce, carrots, cassava, vegetables, peas, produce of all varieties; they may also be encouraged to engage in dairy farming and animal husbandry. Always, under the eye of some BDF member(s) cognizant of the “fleeing felon” rule.
The convict commando, the thief, the bandit, the murderer, the burglar, the wannabe American influenced gangster, the misadvised and ill-informed do not forfeit their duty to be productive members of society and to make restitution.
Finally, I do. not mean to suggest that hard labour is the solution to all crimes committed. However, “a democracy does not have to commit suicide”. (A. Batak, former Israeli Attorney General and later President of the Israeli Supreme Court). It follows a fortiori that any government has a duty to maintain law and order. For those of us who still believe in the Rule of Law … No section of society should be immune from rigorous application, enforcement and implementation of the law. With almost 50 murders so far this year, time might well have passed for a craven, knavish response to the problems of crime and violence.