By NICOLE BURROWS
THIS past week, Reverend Ranford Patterson, Christian Council President, said: “We cannot allow the criminal elements to determine how we will live in our society.”
But who are the “criminal elements”? That line is becoming more and more blurred every day.
Rev Patterson went on to say, “If you know people are committing crime, report them. We’re not doing that. Everybody seem to be afraid. But we can’t get 50 people to come on Bay Street to march against violence, against crime in the country. We’re not serious. Until we get serious, nothing is going to change.”
In contrast to marching, Rev Patterson described how Bahamians were “breaking down the doors” to get on the inside of a John Bull store to patronise a sale event.
It’s very telling, isn’t it ... the fact that Bahamians will fight for material possessions at the lowest possible prices but not for their actual prosperity, which is an outcome of the safe and successful society they should be marching for?
And this points to one of the most significant flaws in Bahamian society – grossly displaced priorities.
What are the national priorities for The Bahamas? More importantly, who sets the precedent for those priorities? Whoever you think they are, let’s look to them for the reason(s) we have little success in abating the explosion of violent crime in our country.
As regards the Prime Minister, he is “very, very, very, very concerned about this matter”. If he uses one more ‘very’, we might believe him more (not so). But combine that expression with his suggestion that Mr Bell, his National Security shadow minister, has a viable strategic plan to successfully fight crime in The Bahamas, especially New Providence ... now ... finally, after all the visits to the drawing board ... then of course we don’t believe any of what the Prime Minister says, no matter how many “verys” he uses. It would have been better for him to have said nothing about it and to have kept a more neutral line on the crime issue, particularly where it bears upon the slaughter of a young elementary school teacher, whose murder has become another opportunity for insane promises with no accompanying, executable action.
And that is the point of emphasis: how ridiculous it is for our Prime Minister to try to show his level of upset in this way, when there is the deepest, widest chasm between his level of concern and the actions taken (or, rather, not taken) under his command.
The Bahamas continues to pay the price for its government’s lack of effective action on violent crimes in the country. The innocent continue to pay this price. The guilty pay another price and it is far from sufficient.
The price paid by a murderer, for murder, should never be anything less than death, unless proven wholly accidental or in absolute self defence.
Joyell McIntosh’s life was violently seized, and not only do police not have the culprits, but, if and when they do catch up to them, they will have more rights than she, even in death.
How can that be? The victim becomes the example and the perpetrator gets a second chance?
A judge will sit in a court and decide, based on a formula or precedent, and other experience, the ultimate price these killers will pay for murdering a young woman in cold blood in front of her child.
A judge will get to determine the value of the pain Joyell’s mother feels; the value of the loss of her emotional and financial contribution to her children’s lives; the worth of her son’s sanity after seeing his mother killed; and, then, what her killers should pay for the fact that the boy will either need therapy (and refuge) for the rest of his life, because of what he saw, or that he will become enraged himself, potentially seeking justice via a criminal life of his own, acting out his anguish until he feels his mother is vindicated.
How can premeditated, cold-blooded murder ever reap any penalty other than the death of the murderer?
How is life in prison any penalty? How is any prison sentence with the possibility of parole any penalty?
How does the opportunity for bail even factor into this punishment equation, when all discrete evidence points to the perpetrator?
How does any of that make sense?
Where is the justice for Joyell and the many lives injured by her death?
How do we live in a world that, even after the worst of suffering is experienced, the innocent still suffer for the guilty?
And every time someone gets killed, there is a bumbling idiot on my TV screen flanked by other idiots trying hard to look official and not to smile. They inspire no confidence. None. Much like the vapid leaders of this country.
All they do is stand there and fan their mouths recounting the official details of the crime like a news bulletin. And, at the end of it, they ask for our - the public’s - help to do their jobs.
What kind of rinky-dink crime-fighting unit are you, when you place so much weight on the public’s assistance? You can’t do your job without the public as a crutch? Then what makes you earn the title of law enforcer?
What kind of training do you have in strategy and investigation? What percentage of people, women and men, on the police force, have more than a few BJCs? Understand that this is not an exultation of book smarts alone, but the one thing you need them for in crime-fighting is to help develop strategic, methodical thinking. For very few, this is a skill which could come naturally.
And on the other side of this divide between law-breakers and law-makers, the police officials ask the public for information, but when the public needs to know information it is kept in the dark or is told that the matter is under investigation so you can’t even inquire. Then the matter fades into the obscure and distant past. This one-way communication with information thrown into a dungeon is not effective.
And, speaking of dungeons, there’s the other matter of rehabilitation in and after prison. I grasp the aim. You want to release “whole” people back into the world, because you don’t want them to commit other crimes. But the next question is, who gets to say who is rehabilitated? Who gets to say when the penal system has done more good than harm, and, most importantly, that the murderer’s penalty is paid, the debt to society is fulfilled, especially for non-accidental, non-self-defence murder?
Why does the prisoner/convict/accused/offender/perpetrator get a second chance at a normal life, to wipe the slate clean, and the family of the victim does not and cannot? The offender gets to say, “you know, I was a bad boy and I did some bad, stupid things, but I’m a man now, and I learned my lesson”? And that’s it. And he (or she) goes on to live and breathe another day.
Is that justice? Or is it the simple fact that the unfortunate victim is dead, no voice to give testimony, ie no longer with the living, and priority goes to the living? How is that justice?
All that tells me is that the court/legal/justice system feeds into the cycle of criminality, forever regurgitating criminals and criminal behaviour. If a murderer gets a second chance at life, and their victim never will, who is really priority? The innocent or the guilty?
And what is the purpose of the court? What is the purpose of the “justice” system? It is merely a survival of the fittest.
Justice, as defined, is “the process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish crimes and criminals”.
But, in reality, what is fair or right or just is not absolute.
The court aims only to find a balance between conflicting parties. That is it. It does not exact greatest punishment or apply sternest penalty, and, as such, will never be satisfactory in its efforts. On occasion, someone will be made an (extreme) example of, but the principal effort is almost like mediation. But how do you mediate between the killer and the family of the person he has killed? It can never make sense; it can never be adequate.
How will “sorry, but I didn’t mean to” ever be enough for the two boys left without a mother? And “forgiveness” is not the answer to this question; religion will not suffice.
There are more chances in a modern system of “justice” given to the guilty than there are given to the innocent.
Is this world that we live in built for the benefit of the guilty, with justice as a mere figment of reality?
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