There is a familiar story many Bahamians have heard.
Police pull a car over. Inside there is a quantity of marijuana. Suddenly, everyone in the car is on the hook for possession. It may be a tiny quantity – but the futures of every person in that car now involves the law, the courts and – potentially – prison.
Innocent people have been caught up in such matters – tangled up by the courts just for being in a vehicle with someone who wouldn’t admit that the joint was theirs.
Even for the people who raise their hands and admit that, yes, they were the ones who had the marijuana, they find themselves facing a lifetime with a black mark against their name. Employers turning their noses up, the financial hardship that goes with it being harder to find a job making the uphill climb even harder.
So we welcome the move by Paul Farquharson to try to get the criminal records expunged of young and first-time offenders through the new Rehabilitation of Offenders Committee.
Years ago, in the US, politicians talked of a three strikes law – some states still have it on the books – but too many young people don’t even get past the first strike.
Mr Farquharson, the former police commissioner, said that “there are many people who are victims, they have made mistakes and they are now toeing the straight line so we need to accelerate the process of trying to clear their name once they have paid their due debt to society”.
For those wary that those who have committed serious crimes will find a way to clear their name and leave people unprepared to deal with hardened criminals with a clean record – have no fear. Such crimes as murder, manslaughter, rape, supplying dangerous drugs and so on cannot be wiped from the record.
We welcome this move – it is one applied in a number of countries already, and we are following a well-worn path to find ways of giving less serious offenders a way back into society. Partner this with the parole system being introduced and this is a way of trying to rehabilitate rater than perpetually punish.
It is, however, only one half of a sensible policy. As we said, sometimes people can get caught up just for being in the wrong place and all over a small amount of drugs that is busily being legalised elsewhere.
The other half of this equation is the overdue report from the marijuana committee. We can have a more sensible approach to marijuana than the one we currently operate.
If we are willing to clean the record of those who have committed offences in the past, we can surely reassess whether some of those should be offences to begin with.
Well done, Mr Farquharson and your team, and good luck in your work. May your efforts to help people find a way back out of crime be matched elsewhere.
What grade do you deserve, Mr Lloyd?
Education Minister Jeffrey Lloyd appears to be taking the Bahamian people for a fool.
In response to the underwhelming examination results this year, his defence is that we, all of us, just don’t seem to understand the grading system.
He says that the “new assessment tool” called the BGCSE isn’t like the GCE exam, where a D was a fail. Now it’s a passing grade.
Well, Mr Lloyd, thank you for that update on the BGCSE exam which has now been around for decades. The public, we are sure, does understand the system – not least because large swathes of the public have either taken the exams themselves or put their children through them.
This isn’t something new, Mr Lloyd, and to suggest that it is makes you look out of touch.
Certainly it wasn’t new when you were campaigning for change before you took office – when you were demanding change and reform.
We suspect the public will have their own grade for your performance.