Categorized | Editorials

Incarceration as Last Resort

Today we find our good selves in absolute agreement with National Security Minister, the Hon. Bernard J. Nottage.

This time around, we agree with him wholeheartedly when he insists that incarceration should be a last resort for certain kinds of law-breakers, especially those who are described as ‘petty’ criminals.

Were this all to the matter at hand, all we would now do is to bide our time knowing that the Minister in question will – with the support of his colleagues get on with the business of making the requisite change.

There will never ever come that day when decision is guided by evidence if real world effort in the form of say the pilot project is not put in place.

Indeed, when idea and evidence meet at that cross-roads where philosophy, policy and program intersect; there are very often results that do make a real difference in the lives of so very many people.

This is why we insist that the new administration should be up and doing with putting in place teams of experts, public sector cadres and their counterparts in civil society charged with helping with dealing with issues and ideas raised at the level of the Executive.

We readily concur with the notion that formal collaboration between epidemiologists, Accident & Emergency doctors, family practitioners, criminologists and the police is necessary so that criminal justice and public health approaches to the causes and prevention of interpersonal violence can be co-ordinated.

Computerized record keeping in Accident & Emergency departments, incorporating programs dedicated to assaultive and accidental injury is an important starting point and this needs to be organized in a systematic way so that comparisons with data collected by police and in national crime surveys can be made.

Evidently, research is necessary to identify risk groups and to draw causal inferences.

Interestingly, the time might surely be just right for all-party agreement on this matter. This might well mark that moment when enhancing community health and deepening social investment are seen for what they really are: the living expression of what it means when reference is made to development.

By this reckoning, then, our Bahamas would and could only be considered ‘developed’ if it was dedicated to becoming that kind of good place where the health and well-being of the people was considered paramount.

In short, we pray for the soon-coming of that day when the Bahamian people – at the mass level – are healthier, wealthier and wiser.

They will become that when they love their neighbour as they love themselves.

One of the more interesting politically relevant facts of life in today’s Bahamas has to do with the prominence of medical doctors in both the Free National Movement and the Progressive Liberal Party.

This bodes well for the quality of both debate and discussion in the Assembly.

Put as simply as we can: Medical doctors are – by calling- in the business of health-care and –as such- they do have both training and outlook that focus on wellness at the level of both the individual and the community.

These people would be quite aware of the fact that high rates of intentional injury as well as illness are closely linked to poverty and that violence leaves permanent physical and psychological scars.

They would also be acutely aware that a deprived young urban male may suffer 60 years of incapacity as a result of injury and subsequent further reductions in quality of life and self-esteem.

This is the fuel that drives vendetta. It is also the stuff of which mayhem and murder is also manufactured.

Criminal injury must be seen not only as a matter that should concern the police, but that it merits formal epidemiological research.

This research should – all things being equal – originate in The College of The Bahamas; should be mandated by the Government of The Bahamas; and could and should be funded by national and international health agencies.

And just as clearly, this should include the evaluation of primary and secondary prevention programs in Accident & Emergency departments and in the community. The question still arises: when will we end the chatter and be up and doing?

If everyone who could was minded to help one other Bahamian who is in distress, ours would be – in short order- a more peaceful, healthy and beloved place.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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