Jun 04, 2020 Editorial
A mind is a terrible thing to waste. And so, too, is a life that starts out wrong from a very tender age. But that is what we have here in Guyana, with increasing frequency and intensifying alarm at the individual, community, and national level. The issue at hand boils down to this: What is the best manner in which to handle our young offenders, who fall afoul of the law and in heinous and mostly shocking ways?
There are no easy answers, given the age of the group, juveniles, that is looked at today. When the calculating and brutal natures of some of their felonious handiworks are considered, broad societal thoughts relative to careful and special case-by-case handling of their situations are overwhelmed by the settled fears, ongoing frequency, and escalating anxieties that accompany each news report of the latest depredation. There is little room for compassion and leniency, there is less patience with any special arrangements that give the impression of coddling those accused of terrible crimes.
In Guyana, the record of such juvenile involvements and active participations-it may even be said, leadership roles-in vicious criminal acts is long and disturbing, there is little by the way of the comforting, or taking these instances for granted. A university lecturer was killed in his own home that was invaded by some youths, who befriended him and then betrayed him most horribly. Recently, a female security guard’s life was ended in a “brutal and senseless killing” by allegedly a teen and his friend (KN June 1). Here was a woman struggling to make an honest living to provide for herself and loved ones, and she is murdered by those who could be her children.
The sympathies of society are far and few in a time when an environment where the wanton and callous are almost the order of the day, and at the hands of those who have their whole life ahead of them. The question and issue continue to plague: What to do with them? What is the most appropriate means to dispense punishment? Or should any punishment regime place emphasis on transformation and rehabilitation?
Though many may have little patience with such, and present the stoniest of countenances, the circumstances weighing down are heavy, the related mitigating circumstances are plentiful. First, many of these youths are from single family homes, without the constant discipline of adult supervision, because that sole parent is out on the road seeking to make a living. Attached to that is grinding poverty and the needs, the street opportunities and temptations that follow as close shadows of exposed and troubled youths.
The wrong role models are there to attract with proof of the prosperity of the fast life. Unprepared callow youth, many of them school dropouts, are poorly equipped to resist the rich lures dangled before their empty stomachs and wanting eyes. The usual report before long is of the news item of the latest horrifying crime. Against this dispiriting backdrop, there must be recognition and admission that our protective systems, our corrective systems are strangled and overwhelmed.
The easiest and reflex response is jail them, as in do the crime, pay the time, and for the longest time possible. But what are we doing here, other than feed a monster that, most likely, could come back and devour? For if the best that we can think of is to lock them up and throw away the key, then we have just contributed to making them lifelong, career criminals, with misdemeanors making way for felonies and felonies building upon felonies for years and decades into the future.
According to that same KN article, there is a better approach recommended by a senior Childcare expert through the introduction of ‘boot camp’ which would monitor, groom, and “promote good ethical and responsible behaviour and positive youth development”. In view of our current crime concerns, and with much juvenile involvement, this may be a hard sell with little embracing of such a position.
Nevertheless, we support such a remedial first step in cases that cry out for such specialized handling. It is our view that filling the jails hurt society more later. It is worth a try.
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