Fri | Mar 31, 2023

Letter of the Day | Crime and violence in Jamaica: blaming the victims

Published:Thursday | July 7, 2022 | 12:06 AM

The EDITOR, Madam:

In recent years it has become commonplace to blame the ordinary Jamaicans for the vaccine crisis; and later we hear corporal punishment and inability of families to solve domestic dispute peacefully are responsible for the high rates of crime and violence in the country. As it relates to the former, history alone proves that position wrong; and the latter is an outcome of a society gone bad. Therefore, one must be able to make a distinction between symptoms as opposed to associated factors. In times like these we miss the perceptive, insightful and penetrating analyses of the late Prof Carl Stone. In my search to understand what is happening regarding crime and violence I selected a similar period in our history, from 1981 to 1988, and then unearthed select articles on the nature of crime and violence in the Jamaica society by Dr Stone. The 1980s was a tumultuous decade, described as the “lost decade”, in the history of the world and Jamaica. As it relates to the latter, the capitalist miracle failed and an increasing illegal drug trade, associated with very high levels of crime and gun violence dominated the land. Dr Stone, a political sociologist, responded with his keen and sharp analyses that helped us to make sense of what was happening. These selected articles by Dr Stone are useful in helping us to make sense of the present-day Jamaica without blaming the victims of crime and violence for this crisis: Carl Stone (1987 a) When the guns are silenced (The Gleaner, November 2); Stone, (1987 b), Free trade vs self-reliance (The Gleaner, November 8); Stone (1987 c), The quality of life, (The Gleaner, November 18); and Stone (1988) Facing the reality (The Gleaner, June 20).

Stone (1987a) explores the genesis of this new type of bizarre violence in Jamaica which he linked to the increasing cocaine trade and consumption in Jamaica. He writes that as a consequence of the use of cocaine “they killed babies, shot and stabbed pregnant mothers, raped infants ...,” among other heinous crimes, committed murders and exhibited bad behaviour in public spaces.

He described these “glass eyed” cocaine-snorting and smoking killers as the factor that changed the gunmen and violence in Jamaica, especially in the inner-city communities. In Free trade vs self-reliance, he implies that the crisis in Jamaica was as a result of the failure of the social, political and economic realities and that there was an emerging call for the self-reliance model of the 1970s as replacement.

In the “The quality of life” Stone (1987c) illustrates that the high level of idleness among the youth population resulting from high levels of unemployment and a general lack of opportunities as well as social neglect contribute to crime and violence. He writes that these young men saw the gun as a tool of survival and a position of strength, and how easily they were duped into drug (now lotto scam) schemes.

In “Facing the reality” Stone (1988) argues that a network of gunmen (gangs) across the country represented a virtual third (armed) force in the country using their money and guns to hold the entire country at ransom at a time when the country was at the brink of economic collapse.

Stone was cautious against the advancing of the old views of political gangs as the centre of the violence, as I am cautious in the promulgation of corporal punishment and the violent solution to family and domestic violence as ‘causes’ as opposed to outcomes of a violent society as defined by the prevailing political and economic order. As we celebrate the 60th anniversary of Independence, I make special tribute to one of Jamaica’s brightest academic stars, Professor Carl Stone.