Fri | Feb 23, 2018

Letter of the Day | Use army to resocialise at-risk boys

Published:Wednesday | February 1, 2017 | 12:00 AM


In the Monday, January 30, 2017 edition of The Gleaner, you carried two insightful articles that should catch the attention of those in authority who are wracking their brains for solutions or wringing their hands in desperation regarding the escalation of violence and criminality among our youth.

I refer to Rev Thwaites' article, 'Answers staring us right in the face', and Dr Herbert Gayle's 'Light on Violence: The Brain of a Repeat Killer'.

In the first article, Thwaites referred to the attempt at "youth training" that took place a few years ago.

He said, "I watched a group of the most vulnerable and dangerous inner-city youth being taken in by the engineering corps of the Jamaica Defence Force and put through a process of behaviour modification and skills training for a few months. The change in their attitudes, their self-respect and their personal discipline was dramatic."

This was not a residential programme, from what I could garner. I would like to think that in the face of escalating violence in our society, this preventative approach is a low-hanging fruit that could be employed by those who are intent on getting to the root of crime and violence, especially among the most vulnerable - those who have dropped out of school, have no gainful employment, and whose home situation leaves much to be desired.

However, I should like to flavour this preventative approach with an observation made in Dr Gayle's insightful article. He says, in part, as he refers to the making of a 'shotta': "Neurobiological problems (nature) might not be enough to cause a person to be a 'shotta'. He needs to be triggered to act cold and brutal. The most common triggers are torture and hunger - both of which are common among inner-city males ... . We have found two of every five inner-city boys to have experienced torture at the hands of caregivers or peers or police."

In other words, torture and hunger by "caregivers or peers or police" are comparable, in the words of Dr Gayle, to "the lethal Russian roulette game".

In combining well-thought-out and well-executed residential training, not for a few months, but for six months, under the direction of the Jamaica Defence Force, could this not be a possible answer that is staring us right in the face? This approach is preventative and could lead to a much-needed positive self-understanding for our youth, who are ripe for antisocial behaviour because of the home situation and the hopelessness that comes from no skills and no opportunity to become productive men.

Prevention is better than cure! It might even save lives and be less expensive in the long run!


Acting Pastor, St Richard's Catholic Church