by R.D. Miller
The package: On September 25, 2015, the BBC News reported that ministry of justice in the United Kingdom announced a £25m deal to build a prison in Jamaica so that about 300 incarcerated Jamaicans now in the UK can be sent home to serve sentences on their native island.
(Photo: Former UK P.M. David Cameron, and Portia Simpson-Miller: Photo Credit- JIS
Shortly afterwards, former British prime minister, David Cameron, followed up with a visit to Jamaica. This visit was more of an inquest to mark a building site before the courting and honeymoon period was over. It seemed that the pound sign euphoria blurred the real intent of this package.
Sadly, after many dates, big speeches, election cycles, and promises, too often accountability is left in the dark in isolation like a cellblock when the lights are out.
Although these offenders must be held accountable: Where they should serve the rest of their sentences remains a debate, and that needs not be driven by profit, but critical analysis for its long-term impact.
The proposed cellblocks appear like a new form of cultural gentrification in disguise being sold as outsourcing of criminals.
Importantly, how does the relocation of these prisoners benefit Jamaica’s poor economy?
What is certain, only few well-connected people will benefit tremendously while it can disproportionately burden Jamaica’s economy like a long sentence.
The unwrapping: Crime is always nation’s national security problem. And a nation has to balance public safety and its finances: the UK has the right to do what protects its people, and its economic future.
Since the late 2010, as reported, statistics of the ministry of justice showed that the prison population in England and Wales has increased rapidly and costs more than four billion a year to house the inmates. This figure has doubled in the past 20 years.
The UK has more privatized prisons than most of Europe combined, and it seems incapacitation has now replaced rehabilitation for many.
These blue waters prisoners will cut the UK’s recidivism rate and corrections cost, and that it is hard to debate.
Since accepting £25 million, this topic went silent. It is simply a financial reward for justice and long-term treatment of these offenders will fade like pain after the plane or ship vessel vacates.
Conceptually, I believe Jamaica indirectly or directly created some of the long pre-sentence reports that have contributed to these criminal packages.
The region has seen local manufactory industries and commodities being replaced with imports, charitable contributions, and an educational system in decline.
Poverty continues to cloud decision-making, economic crisis, political blunders and search for leadership remains critical to balance what seems to be organized anarchy on unilateral decisions.
Today, many are seeing decisions being made beyond economic rationality, and simply based on the currency conversion rate. This highlights the region’s complexity of justice, power, national security, corrections and even the attorney general’s role in these cases.
Opinion writer, Herbert Volney: “Silence of Trinidad and Tobago’s Judiciary.” He highlighted that all voices should be heard objectively, and balance of power in government from top down.
The packing tapes: Historians can even blame Jamaica’s decline since 1846 after Britain rescinded favourable terms of trade, 6 August 1962, independence that has created more dependents, increased in crime, and political discourse that has widened the gaps between the haves vs. have-nots.
Since the arrival of the British around 1655 and after Spain ceded Jamaica to England in 1670 by the Treaty of Madrid, these historic footprints never left.
To Britain’s credit, despite its negative colonial past, it has always given aid to Jamaica and other Caribbean islands, but seldom publicized. One example, New York Times reported that on May 8, 1907, it guaranteed a loan after a major earthquake in Jamaica.
The once open migration policy benefited families who left for Britain, and through remittances that lifted others from poverty.
However, should Jamaica continue to be a place for dumping, especially for families who were disconnected from migration?
Inside the box: Although these offenders must to be held accountable for their actions, often migration missed several key diagnosis issues such as drugs and alcohol, anti-social behaviour, mental health issues before they rejoin their families.
What would a psychological, psychosexual or substance abuse assessment have revealed before migration for some of these offenders?
Additionally, many immigrants face high employment and isolation, combined with low education skills and few struggle to adapt to a new way of life as studies have shown.
In addition, some are exposed to gangs, radicalized, join criminal enterprises, and disintegrate from their parent’s work ethic, pride and compliance to basic rules.
An alternative package: What about rehabilitation of few current Caribbean outdated and deplorable prisons, more funds for poor rural health clinics; schools, drug rehabilitation counselors, vocational training centres for job readiness or, even better, forensic team to solve current crimes.
Jamaica and other earlier British subjects in the region could use another form of payment:
When former Prime Minister Cameron was asked, he avoided the question like many before him.
For decades, writers, reformers and advocates believed that reparation would have championed more democracy, economic development, better civil society, and overall people’s health that would fundamental safeguard prosperity.
Quietly, not all Caribbean people support compensation to descendants of former enslaved people: some still see themselves as the ruling class, while others struggle to present a road map if and how reparation could lift the nation.
These in-fights and struggles further highlight that if reparation were to be awarded, who will benefit?
Few scholars still see corruption as a major part of poverty in the region, and a new prison is not an economic formula to lift Jamaica out of poverty.
Today, it seems that government success is not about cutting the unemployment rate, or raising gross domestic product, graduating more college students, but rather keeping the death rate under 1,000 as few reported.
More emphasis should be given in preparing the islands’ youths for a brighter future, thus lessens the appetite for migration to the UK and other places for survival.
The label: Many who left these islands were infants, and the only cultural connection is where one’s birth certificate is registered.
Individually these offenders might have different cases; nevertheless, deportees today lack proper assessments: Are these packages; robbers, rapist, child predators, murders, drug dealers and even victims or have psycho-emotional health issues.
Reintegration remains a struggle and critical medical treatment often associated with this population lacks proper funding.
It has been reported that most of the crimes being committed today in the Caribbean are by deportees, and even if committed by an offender who never left the island, they are blamed.
Few complained of being targeted and isolated.
With limited resources, law enforcement and the community are at a higher risk.
Conveniently, the UK can unload and lighten its cellblocks as recent reports noted; it is poised to become a minority-majority nation soon.
Will the same re-gift occur if other ethnic groups’ crime numbers increase?
The stamp: Who next will arrive on these shores: homeless, queer, unemployed, or few with different political ideology?
For Jamaica, and other poor nations balancing capitalism, race, culture, barbaric ideologies seem like a steel gate. Furthermore, public safety is like a deferred sentence where conformity is simple because they believe they are being watched until the light goes off.
Many will use what I call a sad occasion to compare that other nations still struggle with massive killings due to easy access to guns, drugs, and poverty. However, this fails to see the broader point that criminals, especially in a service economy that struggles to manage local crimes, could be more problematic.
Regardless of the political silence, where the prison will be built, who will supply beds, clothing, and food served; who is poised to gain should be made public.
Does Jamaica really have a voice, especially where key industries are owned and operated by multinationals investors from privatization?
With Brexit now a reality, and withdrawal from the European Union, there are plenty economic uncertainties that could complicate this package.