Mon | Jan 22, 2018

Why Boyne is wrong

Published:Tuesday | January 10, 2017 | 12:00 AM


When a learned man like Ian Boyne suggests that the stripping away of constitutional rights of certain citizens is OK and is the solution to crime, I become very concerned. When the governments of the day set up 'eradication' squads in the past to curtail the persistent crime monster, the very persons who needed the help the most were the ones who suffered. The poor and disadvantaged, many of whom were only in these positions simply because of the circumstances of their birth and the structural problems keeping them there, were targeted by discriminatory policing strategies.

Thousands of innocent Jamaicans over the years, not privileged enough to have social insulation, have been caught in wide nets cast by police executing 'tough' policing policies. They, as a consequence, became the victims of police abuse and lost trust in the system which should be there to deliver justice for them. Even if structural reform and social investments are not the immediate fix, further marginalising entire communities of people is like adding jet fuel to a raging fire.

There is already a barrier between lawmen and these communities. Trust in the police and the justice system is more likely to be further eroded in Mr Boyne's model of crime-fighting.

A critical thinker would see that a hard-and-fast approach to crime and profiling entire communities cannot solve the problem of violence and criminality. Death squads and jungle justice do not work. Look at the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte. Homicides have skyrocketed instead of decreasing. There is a real possibility that something similar would happen in Jamaica.

There would likely also be serious economic fallout if people living in certain communities have fewer rights than others. The critically needed investments in these areas will fall, property prices will plummet and urban blight will set in as people migrate. This approach is akin to apartheid and is an entrenchment of structural inequalities within Jamaican society while men like Mr Boyne remain close to the top, insulated by their wealth and status in society.

We all agree that crime needs to be decreased, but at what cost? We should not abandon the principle of justice which a society needs more than ever. A just society cannot, and should not, be built on the foundation of an unjust one. In whatever approach we take to tackle crime in the short term, our morality must not be compromised, lest we become the perpetrators of injustice ourselves.

Kevonne Martin