Commentary: Domestic violence awareness: Another missed opportunity

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The timing might not be right, I get it.
If not now, when?
This is an old story, I get it. However, there are always new victims.
They have already been punished, I get that! However, the pain never stops.
The victim went back with him. Could it be lack of support, and fear?
He needs second chance. That is important, and so do others.
The network is not the world’s police, rightfully so
There are many other things to talk about, will do

Missed Opportunity: This year several personal and business resolutions have been missed. No one for sure can predict which story will dominate this year’s headlines. However, if history is our guide, despite today’s cynicism and, and lack of trust in government and leadership, many communities should be focusing on policies and resources for several women who will become victims this year. This issue affects extended family, neighbours, schools, and friends; the list goes on.DVIP2

Late November 2014, many tuned into the Soul Train music award on Black Entertainment (BET), and Centric TV. My interest was to see Kool and the Gang receive a lifetime award for 50 years in the industry and not the glamour, fashion, music critics, and chatter about who came with whom. After the show ended, the telephone rang. “His appearance and platform brought back memories of Rhianna’s face,” they stated. What if Chris Brown made a statement that said “violence against women is wrong” before his performance; would that have changed anything?” You might not agree for the reasons outlined earlier.

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Tennasse Chin-Jamaica

Machel Montano_orig

Machel Montano-Trinidad & Tobago

However, this is not about Chris Brown, who assaulted Rhianna few years earlier. It is about millions of young teenagers, especially women who normally tune-in to watch the show. What is certain, one in five women who perhaps sat and watched these events is a victim or knows and/or saw an abused person, raped, coerced into sex, or otherwise during her lifetime. In addition, nearly one in five teenage girls have been in a relationship where a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup, according to the Washington Coalition against Violence. Even the US Army has seen an increase in sexual assault in 2014.

Domestic violence stretches beyond a sound stage, and especially in the Caribbean where silence tends to morph as the laid back atmosphere while case numbers are staggering, gushing up against women faces like the ocean. The Trinidad Express reported about 11,382 domestic violence cases filed two years earlier. In Jamaica, research has shown over 9,000, and 300 sexual assaults cases reported in the same year. Today, I also wonder what if international soca superstar Machel Montano from Trinidad and Tobago, who received an award, and Jamaica’s Tessanne Chin, former winner of the Voice USA, were given a chance highlight more awareness.DVIP3

Responsibility: These television networks also have been instrumental on many social awareness of importance issues, such as AIDS, drugs, wars, voting, marriage equality that transcends across borders. It is clear Influence 1from seeing first-hand the influence these networks have, from technology, fashion, social and political in poor and developing countries. This year more cameras should be used to make domestic violence an unconformable topic in these regions where it remains a serious issue. The implication here is not that every award function and performers are responsible for crimes committed against women, nor one should one be forced to place a permanent disclaimer on the television screen about domestic violence at each event. Nevertheless, with success comes responsibility.

Domestic violence is an epidemic. It must be treated as a national issue such as the murder rate that is high per-capita in some of the countries in the region. Although it is still an uphill battle, combined with constant images plastered in music videos and other settings that promotes a tunnel vision of female beauty. Nevertheless, more women are using their academic achievements and making a huge difference. They are now surpassing men in college degrees. Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases, including everything from autos to health-care. Seventy-five percent of women identify themselves as the primary shoppers for their households; $90 billion of consumer electronic purchases according to several studies. If she decides to tune out, my products will not be sold.

The Impact: The year 2015 should be about the possible, and not what is popular. Many more global award shows will be on schedule from the Carnival, Reggae Sun Splash, Grammy, Super Bowl, the Golden Globe, and the Oscars. Other networks will continue to search for the “Big Get” to interview another high profile domestic violence case. These “Gets” sometimes creates the wrong impression that, because the perpetrators and the victim are rich and famous, it can be fixed immediately. The reality is that, re-victimization is silent while a television rating gets loud. A powerful abuser can be charming. The victim often believes it is just a one-time occurrence. Unfortunately, many times these big stories are simple a prepared speech.
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In an email to me, she wrote, while living in the Caribbean during the 1960s, she suffered years of domestic abuse by her first husband who raped and punched repeatedly even in his sleep. Immediately, he would apologize. When she reported the to the local police department with signs of an abuse; the police shrugged it off, and told her, “She must have done him something”. She also recalled a co-worker who used heavy make-up to hide her bruises, and a friend she lost when her husband severed her head.media cam

Far too often it seems media pundits cannot resist overtime drive for an outcome of this violence, rather than focusing on the cause. The victim’s support is paramount, especially to escape an abusive relationship. The fear of financial hardship and of losing their children, and safety concerns, combined with the lack of support remain a hurdle. Remaining silent because of shame has to be debunked. This only leads to more abuse. Domestic violence, rape, murder, and other crimes have left many hearts broken in 2014. These incidents seem to have become a normal way of life as perpetrators continue to commit more crimes.

DVIP5The Disconnect: One would hope a victim’s race, colour, sexual orientation, economic status, or nationality does not diminish this problem in 2015, and beyond. The lens by which some see this epidemic only promotes more intolerance, which is as dangerous as the act itself. For example: “what I called the location gay” Inside this gay, lesbian, and transgender community, despite the fight for equality for all, one’s socio-economic status remains a barrier sometimes for inclusion.

The xenophobia of domestic violence excusing criminal behaviour must be stopped and is extremely troubling. When pop superstar Rhianna became a victim, her Barbadian nationality became more important than the abuse itself. One lady suggested that “the Caribbean bitch probably put some roots on him. She was too much in love with this America boy, and do not understand the culture that he needed space.” Another, “He better watch himself, those island women are crazy.” And he just smacked down the Caribbean.

I get it again, millions of records sold. I get it again, it’s record sales, stupid!
Punch 1When does it become a crime? A woman who has been punched in Barbados or in Boston should not make a difference, it hurts anywhere. Furthermore, the narrative has to change, as many pundits would like to believe that only black men and the black community are associated with domestic violence cases. Domestic violence affects everyone. Stop the Violence Against Women, an advocate group, compiled a list of studies from the United Kingdom, which quantified pain and suffering costs as well as the costs of services used by victims and the reduction in economic output due to domestic abuse, and concluded that domestic violence costs people, the state, and businesses about $23 billion. Sometimes, given the slow responses to other epidemics and other social issues, optimism remains elusive.

Keeping the Focus: New events have a way of taking over the news cycle: For example, the grand juries’ decisions not indict two police officers, one in St Louis, Missouri, after the shooting of an unarmed young black male, and Eric Garner’s death in New York. The assassination of two York city officers. However, the US is not alone. Several parts of the Caribbean have seen their share of fallen officers. The Taliban killed over 100 young students in Pakistan for seeking an education, Boko Haram stepped up its attack in Nigeria, gas price at a record low, the president approval numbers have gone up, and Cuba now has a new friend, the US, the economy has rebounded, and so society moved on.

Global Reaction To The Terrorist Attack On French Newspaper Charlie Hebdo

Global Reaction To The Terrorist Attack On French Newspaper Charlie Hebdo

These geopolitical, criminal, economic, and social issues are important to discuss, but unfortunately, domestic violence awareness quietly diminished from airwaves. Putting off this subject is as dangerous, as many women who stayed in their toxic relationships for decades. Such as Santa’s wish, domestic violence focus has to become prime time like Scandal, Days of Our Lives, or Downton Abbey popular television shows. This topic cannot be highlighted if only the elites are involved. For many parts of the world, it is a major problem, and perpetrators are going unpunished and unnoticed.

Global leaders orig

January 11, 2015 (AFP Photo/Philippe Wojazer)

Finally: It is critical that more local and international artistes use their platforms to spread awareness. When women lose their trust in the judicial system, it creates silence. This year, the mentality of a few will not change who believe that women are to be seen and not heard. Gender bias will not disappear. Many abusers will compete again; show up at your local concerts. Millions of young women will be screening, and even you will dance. The hope is at least a few will show up with a picture of the abused women and families killed. Domestic violence cannot be a missed opportunity.real men do not hit

“I was guilty too because this article should have been published earlier.”

 

 

 

 

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Commentary: A new look at violence against women

Commentary: A new look at violence against women
Published on September 18, 2014 : Derrick Miller

There are several definitions of domestic violence. Here is the simplest one: “If it feels wrong, it is.”

Abuse can be covered over, but it still hurts.

Abuse can be covered over, but it still hurts.

One legal definition of domestic violence: It consists of acts committed in the context of an adult intimate relationship. It is a continuance of aggressive and controlling behaviors, including physical, sexual, emotional and psychological attacks, that one intimate partner does to another. Since the 1980, many policies have been amended and have given women constitutional rights to safety and equally protection, but the struggle continues. One of the problems is that it is often seen and described as the tolerant cultural traits and a taboo, where guilt and shame makes it difficult for victims to come forward.

What is the color of domestic violence? Often the media only cover domestic violence when a rich and famous person is abused, arrested or killed. What has happened to poor individuals’ cases? Domestic violence seems to be green. Today, thanks to cameras, tapes are bringing all faces of victims and perpetrators of domestic violence from behind closed doors.

September 8, 2014, reminded us that domestic violence is still a cancer when the Ray Rice, a National Football League (NFL) player, video came out. We saw his fiancée knocked out unconscious in an elevator and being dragged out like a piece of luggage.

Within hours, the OJ Simpson 1995 double murder case in which he was acquitted emerged on almost every news lead-in. This was not co-incidental; OJ’s name generates ratings and a platform that often divides. Most importantly, his case has created more awareness calls to domestic violence centers since.

Despite the media’s recent highlight on almost every black NFL player, there are other Ray Rices still in many games, in schools, mosques, synagogues, churches, and co-workers in disguise. I am not minimizing his behavior. He should be punished both in the court of law and in his career.

Violence should not be broadcast to further polarize a society. Should we now keep scorecards of offenders to balance the portrayal of certain groups? Should we go to the archives and pull up Scott Peterson, who also killed his seven-and-a-half months pregnant wife with her only child when OJ’s name is mentioned?

Four years earlier, Pittsburgh Stealers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, was accused of three rape charges. The district attorney later dropped the charges. It was reported that alcohol played a role. Ray Rice also stated that he was intoxicated. Furthermore, can society add South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius, the disabled track star who killed his girlfriend? For victims, an assault is simply that. It is not them vs us. This divide does not give hope and needs to be debunked.

dv4The Reality: Violence against women is not a new paradigm shift. I am afraid many experts and pundits will move-on soon, and so does domestic violence as it returns behind closed doors until another funeral.

We all know someone and or saw an abuse and asked ourselves why? “He was a nice person and she seemed fine.” This is simple another subconscious minimization process. In these relationships the “power and control wheel have been active: (1) male privilege; (2) economic abuse; (3) emotional; (4) isolation; and (5) minimization.”

Today, tackling domestic violence is troubling, as stratification has created a polarized and intolerant society where socio-economic inequality, haves vs have-nots forced domestic violence into political debates. Soon it will be polled for a comprehensive policy to pass Congress and other legislative bodies to protect women.

In addition, giving few people airtime as the good ones does not tell the full story. Many studies have shown that the homicide and victimization rates for black men and women are higher than the national average. These pundits only offer a temporarily feel-good segment because one mug-shot is not plastered on the screen.

Directly or indirectly, violence is a community problem such as Boko Haram’s  ideology when some believe it is only a Nigerian problem. This ideology is in the Caribbean, the USA, and other countries in disguise.

Domestic violence must taken with a sense of urgency worldwide such as dismantling ISIS, Ebola or any terrorist organization. Although one cannot order a drone strike on an abusive husband, law enforcement, policies and support have to be able to track and dismantle these abusers and give help as needed.

In the 1980s, the US Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) organization played a pivotal role in a grass-roots movement that rewrote laws and battled cultural resignation about alcohol-related traffic deaths. The same has also taken place with gun-advocates. More groups needs to be formed world wide

before-and-afterWho are the faces of violence?

Domestic violence affects young, old, blacks, whites, rich, poor, gay, straight, Christians or non-believers. Furthermore, not having black eye should not discount one as a victim. Many of these women stayed in these abusive relationships for economic survival and their children’s safety. Men also get abused but statistics shows more men abuse women.

The Data: According to the Washington Coalition Against Violence, including other studies, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. These abusers are members of her own family. One in six women and one in 33 men experienced an attempted rape

The amount of children witnessing violence is over 80 million and nearly one in five teenage girls have been in a relationship where a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup. It is one of the leading causes of injury to women — more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined

In the US alone, a husband or boyfriend murders more than three women each day and every nine seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten. This is not only a psychological nightmare for families and friends; the economic toll is extremely high. An estimated $4.1 to $5.8 billion resulted from victims who lose days of work alone, which is about 32,000 full-time jobs.

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Scars of an abused Woman

In 70-80% of these cases, the men psychically abused the woman before the murder. Domestic violence cases comprise of more than half of police response calls, more than robbery, motor vehicle theft, burglary as reported. The long-term medical impact for treatment combined with the stigma is harmful.

In most cases, domestic and sexual violence are not closely occurring at the same time.

Need for universal policies coast to coast: If all crimes become a community health problem, and the no drop clause is implanted, where a victim has no control over the prosecution and it is seen as it is — a criminal act — more can be done immediately.

Why: It was late one Sunday night; I’d just gotten back from a long flight after visiting the region. The telephone rang and a sad voice emerged. The first thought was to say, “How did you gain access to my telephone number?” I later learned a friend of a friend or a friend provided my telephone number.

According to the victim, a criminal complaint had already been filed against her abusive husband. There was minimal sign that physical abuse had taken place, and about her third call for help. This time a doctor’s report was needed to make an arrest and she had to head back home to wait. The local doctor had to be paid in advance by the victim before such medical exam could be completed for a recommendation for an arrest to take place.

Few years later, I still wonder what if the police department was led by a woman with the resources and a responsive system, how different her life would be today? How many died waiting? Imagine being abused and an arrest hung on a medical assessment where the fees are more important.

Treatment Modality: The law does not have to be mandatory prosecution on all cases, but an immediate intervention. Furthermore, simple relying on only physical evidence makes it less likely one more will be killed, and continue to be victimized. A swift adjudication process is key, and treat all incidents as a criminal act, and make sure victims are empowered.

dvip02Domestic violence is not just a few of weeks of treatment sessions where the offender minimizes and refuses to take responsibility and only shows up because he has been caught. Especially in the poor regions, offenders must be held accountable. Outdated laws needs to be amended to send a clear message from the high school to the work place that this kind of behavior must be met with stiff penalties.

Change an old  male chauvinist ideology where women are defined by how high her heels are and not by their work. Both sides should work together and call out violence before it becomes another Rest in Peace obituary. Developing and promoting more women into key leadership roles will not cut violence against women overnight, but decisions that affect women will have a seat at the table.

Laws are the first line of defense, and priority must be given to victims. The outdated ideology, “She deserved it”, has to stop, especially in poor communities where the rich and powerful often muzzle the outcome of prosecutions. If this cycle continues, it only creates a new generation that will marry someone who is either abusive or becomes an abuser themselves.

dv04Refocus: Leaders must invest in young women who are consistently overlooked and treated as second-class citizens. Even when one is qualified, the glass ceiling remains active. As a society, all must move from this first view on the surface.

This mentality is one of a laundry detergent, or a waterfall dripping over rocks as it dissipates to support a synchronized balance or beautiful formation flow or a clean outfit, but has structural weakness and residues. Sadly, domestic violence is a dark secret.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Right Reserved:

Commentary: To serve and protect with a virus

Commentary: To serve and protect with a virus
Published on August 28, 2014
By Derrick Miller:Serve and PThe Outbreak: Since the killing of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, on August 9, 2014,  Ferguson, Missouri, and despite a few editorials that describe the scope of the problem as if was an isolated incident, it has recalibrated several nerve cells.Why are we here again? August 9, was not a rare occurrence. It was the fourth killing of an unarmed black person by a white officer in five weeks. Many believed this was just another virus outbreak in another region. This is an ongoing question surrounding many police departments’ treatment of poor people, especially in black communities. Like the Ebola virus, many have sought to reverse a DNA code to cure an over 200-year affliction since slavery. Michael Brown’s death has revisited a hazardous dark chapter that consistently tests our invariability.

These toxic cells are racism, prejudice, economic deprivation, education inequality, polarization, among many other things that often unexpectedly surface. I hope, when the streets are cleared, these issues do not become dormant and life goes on as normal while many continue to struggle with: (1) protection vs. freedom; (2) correctional system; (3) police brutality; (4) tactics; (5) race; (6) culture; (7) abuse of authority; (8) demographics vs. representation; and (9) priority and government role.The lack of uniformity in several uneven communities only shows us the struggle between pluralism and elitism. One, police should help the people, and the people should help themselves and, two, the perception that they protect the rich, and suppress the poor create doubts.

The demonstrations that followed were not all infected by thugs or gangsters and only black people.Other races voiced their concerns of what appearedto be a public department with a closed system. Few people arrived with infected tissues in trying to disrupt good organs.However, the focus was to decide which lives are more valuable between blacks and whites, and stopping undiagnosed quarantine that has killed healthy cells.As the world watched, Ferguson law enforcement struggled to keep up order, handling of the protesters made front pages globally on tactics used — rubber bullets, tear gas and multiple arrests, including journalists.Sadly, the US is not alone facing scrutiny of police brutality and excessive use force that have devastated many lives.

In the Caribbean, across from the  white sand and blue waters, many of us visitors are struggling. However, racism tend to be muted as it is often between the haves vs. have-nots and concerns of limited accountability by government officials for the have-nots.Russia and Iran appeared concerned despite their poor records on dissenting views by its citizens. However, I am not implying one should use one’s own issues to call out others.Police Ebola: For decades, several poor communities are injected with a frustration virus.

Although few people might have been exposed and already processed, navigation such as a simple drive, or walk to one’s favourite candy store can be a reason to be quarantined. Even when an individual has not been exposed or engaged in any toxicity, consistently restrictive masks are issued. Furthermore, sometimes an meet in an unmarked quarantined space with law enforcement and any negative gesture out of frustration can dictate if one lives or dies simply refusing to accept a surgical mask.

police5One writer argued just do what you are told.  It is extremely important to comply with an officer’s order. However, for many young black men and other minorities in their reality, accepting a command often only reduces the amount of bullies from perhaps from ten to six, as a decision had already been made.

Even when authority has solid evidence, gaining compliance requires good tactics. For example, despite much-needed treatment to halt the spread of the Ebola virus in Monrovia, Liberia, the recent government approach after the world has taken notice only created more problems as reported.

Several predominantly black poor communities have been plagued with crime, cultural and socioeconomic issues and in need of an antibiotic. According to Rebecca Klein, Huffington Post, only 50 percent graduation rate in 2013 compared to 86 percent of the state and at least 60 percent had at least one suspension in Michael Brown’s high school. If these symptoms were found in predominately white schools, a vaccine would have been developed and or an operation with new blood transfusions. This issue requires investments and interactions.

Most of these officers do not live in the communities they serve, unable to relate and recognize a single black healthy cell. It seems only when an epidemic erupts doctors who sit in isolated gated communities tasked with decisions only took notice while the problem has been known for decades. These labs are only treating symptoms, and not the cause of the problems.

The lack of medicine or limited interjected ones often creates more delusions and long-term side effects. Although traces of cells need to be isolated and incapacitated, an entire community should not be treated as if all are infected.

S and PIt is problematic being viewed as the only affected people while knowing that more affluent towns have also been exposed but overlooked. These communities need an economic medication to prevent outbreaks, but priority seems to be invested equipment in anticipation of divide and turmoil.

The broken window theory that is based on zero tolerance and swift action solutions seems to have switched to everyone in the community and not the criminal elements. Not all medicine work for the Ebola virus and these community labs must seek new medicines.

Traces: Modern policing is not a new concept in our society. It has been around since the early 1800s, created in Great Britain. As a few scholars noted that it was used to keep slaves in check from running away from their masters. Maybe that mindset still exists in some departments today.

George Kelling and Mark More analysed the US evolution for a Department of Justice studies. The Political Era (1840s – 1930s). This was period where close ties between the police and politicians, and emphasis was on making politician happy. The Reform Era (1930s – 1970s) focused on arrest, and professional fighting crimes. Community Policing Era (1970 to present). This is where partnerships with the community and police agencies work together.

According to several studies, community policing has been successful when it is implemented correctly. However, in some areas this theory seems only to be on paper. Furthermore, it seems most of today’s operations are stuck in the two eras, like an apartheid system where one is free to move, but mentally trapped.

In a recent CNN panel, a Florida police chief stated that not all officers believe in community policing. This is not to say these officers do not uphold the law and should not be part of the institution. However, forcing officers inside communities to work with different racial and socio-economic background could be a call for more hands-up-don’t-shoot cases, as one easily defaulted back to training like muscle memory as to where he carries his or her weapon.

Police StandoffPerception vs. Reality: It is not an easy task being a police officer. Law enforcement wears multiple hats; they need as much support as we can afford them. Sometimes it seems they have more issues than policies to meet society’s demands in fighting crimes while balancing human rights. Even in cases where an officer is being out-gunned, the expectation society places on the officer often, puts law enforcement in a tight spot, balancing perceptions and reality.

Many of today’s police officers are extremely educated and become a social worker dealing with a domestic violence, child abuse issue, plotting a crime scene on computer models, to predicting trouble spots, while some cannot diffuse an incident without pulling a weapon.

Bureaucratization can create a set of norms that often lead to social problems. A system can be well organized, but hard to adjust to current and changing reality. How can several decades of them vs. us change in a few hours?

Ferguson prosecutor, Robert McCulloch came under fire for how he handled earlier criminal cases and perceived favouritism of law enforcement that led to mistrust in the community. He was elected several times and has a close ties to the police unit. Often when community policing fails, there are repeated called for tolerance, inclusion, resignation or be fired.

The department seems to have an operation stuck in the two previous political and reform eras. Many officers were making arrests, restricting media traffic during the protest were part of a few systematic issues.

However, not all white officers involved in killing of a black man are racist. Nevertheless, we cannot use disciplinary records as the only guide because behind closed-door people often grouped by their ideology. One can be anti-gay, blacks, white, Jews, women, immigrants, and still function on the job. Institutional racism is just as dangerous. Moreover, we cannot ignore few bad apples in disguise. For example, two officers tied to the Klux Klux Klan recently in Florida.

It seems our society have become immune to these shootings. What is more troubling if an individual confirmed as mentally disturbed is not able to comprehend the danger of approaching an officer with a deadly weapon, it can easily be justified. Society must make sure when it eliminates a virus it must be only when it threatens the life of an entire community and not because of its label.

During a CNN interview, a young man wrote two poems, one for the good police officers, and one for the bad ones. This is a sign of hope despite some bad viruses, there are still good cells  that still believes in public service, and just want to make it home to their families after each shift just like any average person.

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AP Photo/Johnny Huu Nguyen In this Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014 photo provided by Johnny Nguyen, Portland police Sgt. Bret Barnum, left, and Devonte Hart, 12, hug at a rally in Portland, Ore., where people had gathered in support of the protests…

peace Updated 11-29-2014:   Despite  decades of frustrations; destroying your  own community is never a solution to any social problems, because often the fundamental  core issues  often  burned in the created flames.

Commentary: Missing one player, a politician, and a police officer:

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Our People/The Player: Each year several countries carry out a set of new policies, rules and law, and how it moves that society forward. The Caribbean islands are no different from many other nations such as the United States where over 40,000 will be implemented in 2014. These range from voting rights, economic development, pot/marijuana to gun-crime control and victims’ rights.

As someone who works in the public service/safety environment, I have seen a bit of violence despite new laws, and it cuts across several socio-economic statuses. However, most of the violence is in the black communities, where several West Indies and other minorities call home, and where economic opportunities have diminished.

reflectionWorking in the public safety community surrounding the criminal justice environment can become difficult dealing with both the offenders and victims of crimes. This is why taking a break is extremely important. A trip to the Caribbean islands countryside to escape these issues has always been a priority. These islands have always been a cooling off period, to refresh before heading back to take on the next case. Furthermore, arriving there I believe is better than taking over-the counter medicines to relax, which can be more dangerous than some of our streets. Most importantly, giving back to a region that has played a pivotal role in my career today.

On other occasions, I have travelled and presented at criminal justice conferences. These topics include: the role of corrections, leadership, values, history of incarceration, balance approach to corrections, what works, offenders risk, and building an effective and efficient criminal justice team. These events and other non-business activities have allowed me to learn about some issues are diminishing the hope of several young people, and families.

The highlights of the trips were when we rounded up a few old friends and played unscheduled games such as football, cricket, dancing, dominoes, and reminiscing on the good old times.

Sometimes at these events, I noticed missing faces, and their stories became all too familiar like the ones left back in the US. Suddenly, I realized violence, drugs, and other illegal activities played a role in which families are left torn apart and helpless, searching for answers. Some of these cases are still unsolved.

On the other hand, a few were career criminals, and others did not take personal responsibility from early exposure into the criminal justice system, and did not change their behavior and ultimately died prematurely. Not all these negative outcomes can be blamed on the economic decay that has taken over some of the regions.

jail03Despite a sense of hopelessness that stretched beyond the warm welcome at the airports, it is always easy to count down the days left imagining the passport and plane ticket to get out. However, looking back, one of these stories could have been many of us. The only factors that separated us decades ago or recently were the opportunities given to us by our family, education or from someone who took us under their wing, and told us to turn around.

Drugs: What was also troubling is the use and sale of hardcore illegal drugs. It seems to have taken over some of these parishes and local food markets and streets. Crack and cocaine have now reached the riverbanks, which run throughout these parishes. It has also escalated into turf wars, and gang affiliations. The days of getting dressed, and hitching a ride to the local markets are quietly becoming very dangerous, and have created more disconnect in the communities from the fear of become a victim of crime.

The local shops are still on the corner streets. These issues seem normal on the surface, but deep down you can still feel the hurt when a name of a loved one is mentioned and the reasons that led to their premature death or the substance abuse issues. “Who do I turn to for help, or blame?” is always the question asked.

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Cocaine snorting

What is behind the use of illegal substance? Most of the end users do not have any idea of the long-term impact from using these drugs. These drugs often lead to more crimes being committed. Cocaine and crack in any form produces the same psychological effects.

cj11Users begin to feel a high within 3-5 minutes, and within 10-20 minutes peak at the highest levels in the brain. If they are not treated, the long-term impact can be severe, and these people can become extremely violent. Most studies have shown they often engage in illegal activities to support their habits. Combating these issues requires a long-term strategy that is woven inside politics, economics, rehabilitation and the justice system. These areas are not mutually exclusive.

The Politics: Crime has become a major issue to a region known for its fruit and vegetables and warmth of the people. Crimes continue to be a problem. Although not all the Caribbean islands share the same high crime rates; however, others nations cannot sit in isolation and look away when they can offer support. Globally, visitors see the Caribbean as an entire blue body of water and sand under one collective unit.

Leaders in these regions must come together not only during carnival seasons, or just showing up at CARICOM conferences in tailored suites just to repeat the next trip, and nothing has been done from the last meeting. This institution has been around for a while, and has done significant work in moving the region forward. However, it seems this body has not caught up with the new generation and the demands to promote equality, and economic growth. They must unite in developing a comprehensive crime fighting plan, and let it be known that they care.

Handguns seized by police in Kingston, Jamaica

In recent years, several reports have shown that Jamaica and Trinidad have a higher crime rate compared to others the regions. These two Islands receive more notoriety compared to some others, and issues are reported almost instantly. However, since they are all linked together, the leaders must prove that they care about all problems facing these islands. From Aruba to Trinidad, they all have some form of drugs and crime infested areas. CARICOM in the next conference should develop an island wide crime fighting strategy.

Today, the penetration of hard drugs seems too normal, and killing of innocent people has become the new mediation process, as some of our youths have lost their moral compass. The struggles moving young people send; especially men from economic deprivation and high unemployment can lead to criminal behaviour. However, we must not give up hope. Some of these criminals need to be isolated, and in some cases incapacitated from committing more crimes and for the one who needs rehabilitation, the resources should be provided.

We cannot escape these issues by ignoring them. Soon addicts and criminals will continue to move throughout the region. He or she will be well dressed, have the proper documents to clear customs until they decide to canvass your local town looking for jobs or to commit another criminal act, or buy illegal drugs.

When a nation continues to lose people to crimes of violence, it goes to the broader problem. It cuts short who will be the next track star, or who will be the next Usain Bolt, Arthur Lewis and Derek Alton Walcott: Nobel prizewinners. In addition, the next bobsled team, doctor, teacher, or Alison Hinds, Bob Marley, Mighty Sparrow, Rihanna, or prime minister if52858882 we turn a “blind eye”.

jam5Equally troubling, a vast number of the community continue to be at the mercy of our decision makers. Some of these leaders cannot relate to the problems facing their communities. When we choose leaders, we hope that the community problems are addressed. The only time they interact with the less fortunate and the ones who elected them is during an election period, then back to the high-rise buildings overlooking the parishes and towns in isolation promoted as success.

Sure, when we analyze these issues, it is often met with resistance. Nothing is wrong with being successful, but we have to make sure that our policies are reaching all and not only a selected few. The essence of the community events are often where several local politicians build their skills into higher offices, and or watch the next star in the making. Some of these events are becoming fewer due to violence and turf wars, gangs, and illegal drugs activities. These behaviours must be met with serious resistance by law enforcement and the community in general.

udusLaw Enforcement/Police: Despite some local law enforcement strategies to combat this criminal behavior, it can be very difficult. I have friends who are local officers and they tell me that, throughout the Caribbean, more resources are needed to change course, such as rehabilitation for substance abusers and other criminal behavior.

A vast amount of issues not resolved or being addressed properly. In some cases, the communities know these perpetrators, but are unwilling to come forward despite rewards being offered. No amount of rewards will prompt these people to come forward because they too have lost hope in the justice system.

It is not an easy task being a police officer. Law enforcement wears multiple hats; they need as much support as we can afford them. Sometimes it seems they have more issues than policies to meet society’s demands in fighting crimes while balancing human rights. Even in cases where an officer is being out-gunned, the expectation society places on the officer often puts law enforcement in a tight spot, balancing perceptions and reality.

Equally important, we must not allow ourselves to be overrun by a few lawless individuals. As a community, we should demand more from our representatives. During election cycles some politicians will stop in local areas, and hand out cash, but never return after they are elected. It is time to stop voting for people and start to look at their policies.

Prison Pop-HandsWe cannot only promote new jails and criminal tracking systems, as I have seen during few conferences attended in these regions, to monitor prisoners inside, and not much being done to keep them on the outside. Several scholars have noted a nation cannot lock its way out of crimes. I am not implying that this industry should not explore the opportunities that capitalism has given us, but there has to be a balance.

Here is one solution formula: [(+) One more educated child, (-) one less jail bed (=) fewer offenders/or victims].

As our income and inequality gaps widen globally; communities will need each other for survival, and we cannot allow drugs, violence to separate us while some decisions makers stand by and watch.

Across your well-known islands with a global appeal, I hope you look at your new laws for the coming year(s) and see how they affect your upward mobility; promote equality and human rights and what role it plays in public safety

I believe especially for politicians in today’s society, they have significant influence, but it has become more complex, selfish and isolated, and gone are the days where both sides build our community. Today it does not have to be about the perfect, but striving for perfection.