Mon | Jan 30, 2023

Mark Wignall | Made in prison

Published:Sunday | November 27, 2022 | 12:07 AM
The Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre in downtown Kingston. The system in our prisons is no bed of roses but those inside make the most of it to the point that it echoes life on the outside.
The Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre in downtown Kingston. The system in our prisons is no bed of roses but those inside make the most of it to the point that it echoes life on the outside.

Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson on Wednesday sai that roughly1,000 inmates are released from prison each year. He said of that number, 42 per cent will return to prison, most after committing a more violent crime Is it at all...

Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson on Wednesday sai that roughly1,000 inmates are released from prison each year. He said of that number, 42 per cent will return to prison, most after committing a more violent crime

Is it at all possible to develop a profile on those 1,000 so that it can be determined just who are the 420 who will be headed back to prison after committing a more violent crime?

The big elephant in the room is the very fact that people who commit murder know that they have about a 90 per cent chance of getting away with it.

Either by engaging experienced lawyers who know how to game the system, or more likely, escaping detection and in reality getting away with murder. And our fullest use of forensic science in making charges of murder stick, especially where witnesses are scared of following through, is far from the stage where escaping a murder charge is a rarity.

The system in our prisons is no bed of roses, but those inside make the most of it to the point that it echoes life on the outside. Learning skills in the bakery or tailor shop may give the impression that a real attempt is being made of rehabilitation. But it is definitely not hard labour.

The many who fell in with the wrong crowd on the outside will be seeking out that same profile of violent and murderous company to which the commissioner allude. That is, using the stay of incarceration to attach oneself to the runnings inside while also utilising that system to control criminality on the outside.

At the heart of what is now driving most matters in Jamaica is this fact stated by noted criminologist Dr Anthony Harriott in 2016. Crime prevention is a long-term goal whereas crime reduction is an immediate need. Harriott would have also drawn the early conclusion that in terms of specific government policy, both objectives need to be pursued at the same time while recognisng the gulf in the time frames. No one promised that governance would be easy.

A few months ago, I was in a little joint somewhere in a lane off Red Hills Road. Soon, I was in conversation with a patron who told me he was 68. He was retired from the correctional services.

“Mi build my house and is just through runnings inside a prison. Inside prison is like a big mall. Pure bargain inside.”

He didn’t want to talk too much about details, but he agreed that a real badman locked up inside still has influence on the criminality on the outside. Stuff like extortion and specific hit jobs are also directed from inside the prison system. This is no big secret in Jamaica.

The retired correctional officer admitted that at times, criminals with ‘clout’ on the inside used family information to impel the officer to do the bidding of the criminal, especially in trafficking contraband from the outside.

ARE YOUNGSTERS MAKING INROADS IN POLITICS?

A few decades ago, it was the norm that the young and impatient persons who joined up with a political party ‘to serve’ would learn the ropes from weathered political masters.

They were taught how to handle the constituency machinery and the delicate matter of navigating the street forces and trying to control the use of the local gangs and guns.

That type of apprenticeship didn’t work out too well, and the youngsters became clones of the fast-fading masters.

That sort of approach has lost its flavour to the point that an MP with a reputation for hanging out with murderers is no longer rated highly among the leadership of both parties.

I’m not here to place halos on MPs, but it seems to me that even if a certain MP may be passing money through the same noisy washing machine and another is being slowly pushed out, the general trend is towards casting out those who still desire close company with criminal elements at street level.

WILL PNP KILL THE SOEs?

In the immediate wake of the security forces’ incursion’ in Tivoli Gardens in 2010 while Dudus was on the run, specific states of emergency were called by the Bruce Golding- led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration.

Golding was in a pickle, and he probably knew that his life in politics was at an end. He must have known that he would have to give up the post of prime minister.

He was a dyed-in-the-wool JLP even if he had had relationships with the dream of a viable third party. The NDM.

And he of the JLP yard and house and fowl coop was being forced to give up Dudus to the American authorities. During the SOE at the time, many well-known criminals were on the run. At the eleventh hour when and extension was needed, the People’s National Party (PNP) Senate offered no support.

It seems to me that the PNP is likely to deny PM Holness in a manner similar to 2010.

This time around, I am in two minds about it. Sufficient numbers of senior policemen have conveyed to me the usefulness of the SOE reducing the movement of gang members. At the same time, I think we all know that the SOEs are unsustainable.

Is the PM telling us that the security forces will need to utilise many 14-day periods of SOEs until the SOEs become the real crime-fighting plan?

At which stage is the commissioner of police going to direct the JCF towards developing air-tight cases on well-known criminals to make the many SOEs not seem as important time lost or abused?

The youth arm of the JLP is quite active in seeking out at the very least another youngster in the opposition PNP Senate. The real objective is to place a world of political hurt on PNP Senator Gabriela Morris, putting it on her conscience that she stands in the way of assisting the country in its fight against criminality.

More than anything else, the approach from the youngsters in the JLP is saying to her: You are young and bright and know better. Break with the directions of the lovers in your party.

Tough. Raw politics.

Mark Wignall is a political and public affairs analyst. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mawigsr@gmail.com