Once upon a time not so long ago, I worked with drug users, coked out prostitutes that many pass on the streets, dirty, shabby, some HIV Positive and looking worthless. Not only did I work with them, I listened to them, shared my lunch and dinner with them, hugged them, wiped their tears. I saw a few who were accepted into ‘rehabilitation’, but one in particular stuck with me. She had gotten hooked on crack by her lover, who then put her into prostitution to both support her developed habit and ofcourse for his profit. She was a very intelligent, educated, a former business owner…her life was perfect until she met the wrong man. The day I convinced her and the man, to allow her to go into therapy, was one of the happiest days of my life as I walked her into getting help, and tracked her progress. To my surprise the 8 weeks came to an end, she was looking amazing, all she needed was dental work to fix her smile, as she had lost most of her teeth, between coke and being beaten up by her lover or the men who bought sex from her. She came into my office, all smiles, dressed amazingly and recounted her experience in rehabilitation and thanked me for helping. But get this, at the end of the short period, I was surprised that there was no continuity plan and she had to be returned to the streets. I was devastated, and vowed to find a way to address this…but just for one night on the streets, I begged her to be careful. I got a call at 6am the next morning, she was murdered.
What’s the intent of sharing that story?
Our social justice and rehabilitation programmes have no continuity, and therefore no sustainability, not only in the programme but also in the individual.
I looked through the main stories today, and am saddened at the multiple references to our crime issue, but GLAD that it seems that we have hit the root of the issue. Our youth! Our young men in particular, as it relates to direct influence on crime (the focus on the boys in no way negates the importance of the girls but that is for another blog post).
The Jamaica Gleaner article written by Corey Robinson, put some startling statistics out there. In a situation that Assistant Commission of Police, Elan Powell describes as a ‘worrying trend’, in 2017 (alone) 78 teenagers were arrested for shooting, 148 for illegal possession of firearm, and 63 for robbery with aggravation, with a 15 year old boy, arrested for raping a woman at gunpoint.
What is the meat in the matter?
Damion Hutchinson, of the Peace Management Initiative has been struggling in the streets for a long time (Big up Hutchy) I personally don’t understand how he does it. As his job must be one of the most frustrating, I am sure having done that particular work for so long he is at the heart of all of it, and is able to see exactly how worrying the issues are. Powell is on the ball when he noted the life expectancy for boys in the hood is25.
Now, let that sink in. To live to 25 is a miracle when you are born in the ghetto. Hutchy, notes that 11 year old boys are leaving primary school functionally illiterate. Here, clearly, our education system is failing our boys ( a whole other story).
So Hutchy notes, that when the boys ‘fail’ at primary school and are then placed in secondary school, they simply cannot manage, eventually becoming disruptive, detached which eventually leads to suspension or expulsion.
So where are the parents in this?
Usually a single mother who is under-employed or unemployed, she is doubly stressed out, crying out for the help of the father…if he is himself not already prison, dead or illegal in a foreign land. She can’t beat him anymore at that point, all she can do is cuss and tell him horrible things. Every single minute of the day this young man is aware that his home is never of place of peace, his mother ensures he knows how disgusted with him she is and how he is just like his father – ‘yuh tan jus like yuh dutty wukless crawsis puppa’, the rhetoric is usually laced with the bitterness of a woman who was hurt and abandoned in her responsibilities.
These boys aren’t necessarily lured into gangs at this point, they are simply welcomed and given alcohol, weed, food to eat and a place to sleep and ofcourse guns. The most respected in the gang, become like their fathers and the gangs become their family as early as 12/13 year old.
There are 4 Juvenile Correction centres, 2 of which are high security that have the responsibility of working with these young people, between the ages of 12-18, whom the court deems requiring ‘confinement in a structured environment that will aid in their rehabilitation’. The centres, with all the best intention in the world, expose the children to varied programmes, teaching them life skills, employment skills such as barbering, woodwork and farming to name a few…but ofcourse for a short period of time, at the end of which they are sent back to their unstructured environment, full of skills but ofcourse no job or outlet. To what end?
Well, Steve McGregor, Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police and head of the Community and Safety Branch believes that as a recommendation to ‘cutting off the supply to gangs’, that the government should pass legislation to put youngsters into what he calls ‘semi-military’ training, before they go into the workforce. I hope the government is not listening to this one….as this will be just another unsustainable programme that will create more militant men who know their way around the guns and no jobs…it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that is a recipe for even more trouble.
We are failing our children, with knee-jerk responses, with statistics and evidence that don’t make it to our programmes, with unsustainable programmes. In failing our children we are failing our country!
The government should:
a) Mandate school attendance with free and diverse skill based public school attendance up to 18 year old
b) Public school education should be geared toward entreprenuership
c) Loans be available to start a business for all school leavers
d) Parenting support and access to birth control and requisite education surrounding same should be free for both boys and girls, men and women.
What is the truth?
To arrest this issue, we must do what is absolutely necessary. The garrisons need special attention and can no longer be allowed to wallow in its waywardness if we want our country to progress as a nation. As a country, we are the sum of ALL our parts, this isolate ideology must end, and not everyone can be involved, but support the ones who are willing to address it with resources, not just money but tools as well, do what you can or we will all become victims.
Injustice/inaction anywhere is a threat to justice/action everywhere. Most communities have agencies that are working within them, with very limited resources and reach…volunteer with whatever skill you have, you would be surprised that just by talking with them and showing interest in their daily lives can go a far way…this is the purpose of this Kingston Too blog. Please share this post and follow the blog, as I will be looking into these issues, telling personal stories and providing linkages…comment/suggest/respond…
Lets get started…Thank you.