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Swift, certain justice key to deterring crime - Clayton

Published:Wednesday | December 28, 2016 | 12:00 AMJason Cross
Professor Anthony Clayton

A strong element of deterrence is needed in Jamaica if the island is to experience any kind of properly functioning system of law enforcement and justice, says University of the West Indies Professor Anthony Clayton.

"There has to be a strong element of deterrence. To deter, the punishment has to have three qualities - it has to be swift, it has to be certain, and it has to be severe. It is actually the first two that are the most effective in reducing the propensity to commit crimes," Clayton stressed as he addressed the inaugural Policing and Security Conference held recently at the Mona Visitor's Lodge in St Andrew and organised by The Jamaica Constabulary Force and the University of the West Indies Open Campus.

The conference was themed Policing and Security, Strategies and Solutions in Addressing Gangs.

The effectiveness of swift and certain punishment, Clayton stated, is quite clear as, once there is a very high probability for committing a crime and being caught and punished, persons would think twice before committing crimes.

"If there is a very low risk of being caught, a very low risk of having to face any kind of justice for your actions, it doesn't matter how severe the punishment is. If, for example, the punishment for a given crime is a slap on the wrist or it's 10 years or the death sentence, it doesn't actually affect you if the chances of being [caught] at all are one in a million," Clayton said.

"What does it matter what the punishment is? Chances are, it's never going to apply to you anyway. Everybody thinks that if you hit the guys really hard when they are arrested, they will stop doing [wrong things]. Not true. What you have to do is increase the probability of someone being caught and actually given some kind of punishment."

This is an area Clayton believes Jamaica is falling down in big time, the fact that there is very low probability of detection.

"Things we need to do to be able to deliver all of this is [that] we need to rethink not just strategy, not just operations, but also really our philosophy on policing," he said.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com