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Thwaites' presentation of prison report doesn't paint complete picture - Commish

Published:Thursday | January 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Ronald Thwaites

POLICE COMMISSIONER Owen Ellington is insisting there is great value in a study produced by the Research, Planning and Legal Services Branch of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), which linked the majority of adult inmates in the country's penal system to non-traditional schools.

"We wanted to provide some evidence of a correlation between issues in the school community and the risk factor for individuals going into criminal activity," Ellington said yesterday at a Gleaner Editors' Forum.

Education Minister Ronald Thwaites presented the JCF study to Parliament on Tuesday and outlined a range of intervention strategies which he said would be targeted at 54 schools in particular. The study, which listed 18 schools that featured most in the sample of 894 violent criminals who were interviewed, concluded that the typical inmate is under 34 years old, from either the Corporate Area or St Catherine, and comes from a single-parent upbringing.

Yesterday, Ellington said the report, as presented to Parliament by Thwaites, is "not the complete picture".

FINDINGS CAN BE PUT TO USE

He insisted that the findings of the survey can immediately be used to inform policies that can be used to intervene in, strengthen and build resilience in the schools, strengthen families, and develop juvenile-diversion policies in a different way.

"It may also initiate additional police action in some of the communities, reduce crime, and increase security sufficiently, so that the youngsters may become comfortably adjusted in schools," Ellington said.

The JCF study said the typical inmate is likely to have dropped out of high school before reaching grade 11, without attaining any certification, and was likely to have stopped attending school because of financial difficulties. The typical inmate, the study states, is likely to have had his first arrest before reaching age 24, and is often charged with firearm-related offences.

CRIME LINK

"Of those who dropped out of school early, many cited violence in the communities where the schools are located," Ellington said. "Many of them cited intimidation from gang members and extortion. Many of them cited approaches to recruit them into criminal gangs. So it is not just simply that they attended a school and they underperformed and then became criminals. There is a core range of other factors," the top cop added.

He sought to underscore the point that the factors which surfaced included the family, schools, and community. In the case of family, the study found that 44.6 per cent of the sample, or 398 persons, indicated they were from single-parent families. Some 334 were raised by the mother only, and another 33.3 per cent of the sample, or 297 people, grew up with both parents.

Even while Thwaites prepares to roll out a raft of measures to treat with the issues identified by the study, the JCF researchers said they highly recommend that additional work be done to examine socio-economic variables such as employment and marital status and reasons for their involvement in crime.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com