Orville Higgins | Send all kids to prison!
If you're like me, you are no longer surprised at the alarming crime statistics in Jamaica. Over the years, we have become numb to the news of murder and mayhem.
It is clear that our politicians are unable to do anything about it. They all seem not to have a clue. We hear the grandiose speeches in Parliament. We hear the many plans. We hear about divine intervention. We hear tongue-in-cheek comments about obeah. Ministers and police commissioners come and go. It makes absolutely no difference.
My first idea is to send every Jamaican child to prison! Sounds odd? I am not suggesting carting off youngsters to prison because they commit crimes. I am saying, send them to view and observe prison conditions when they are still at an impressionable age, maybe between eight and 10.
In my generation, trips to the zoo or the National Pantomime were standard. Those trips stayed with us for a lifetime. I am hereby suggesting that we make prison trips mandatory to all young children. Let them see the suffering. Let them witness the conditions. Let them see how much the prisoners regret being there. You wont stop crime immediately, but I guarantee that a large portion of those children will grow up realising that a life of crime isn't worth it.
Too many of our youngsters take on the badman persona without really thinking or knowing the conditions that ultimately will await them in our penal institutions if they don't die first.
The Government should make it mandatory that every child visit General Penetentiary (Tower Street) or Horizon or Prison Oval! A few of them may be traumatised, but so be it. If it proves a deterrent to a life of crime. That's a small price to pay.
The other obvious solution is sports. It sounds simple, but my long experience has taught me that communities that are involved in active sports competitions are less likely to be at war. One of the benefits of sports is that it teaches youngsters to accept the decision of the officials. Of course, there are times when players openly protest and even rebel against a referee or umpire's call, but there is no other human endeavour that promotes healthy rivalry and respect for authority as does sports.
The Government should start a corner league or a T20 cricket league or a basketball competition in all the troubled communities. Indeed, they could do them back to back. The more time spent on a playing field or a court, the less time planning to start a war with your neighbour.
A lot of these murders we are told is over 'turf'. This patch of land belongs to X crew and that patch belongs Y. Sports would go a far way towards curbing the mayhem. Teams have to travel around, the youths would be far less likely to see a street or a lane as their enemy.
The Government may claim that it can't afford it, but the real question is, can it afford not to? I venture to say that the cumulative cost of crime is far greater than would be the cost of putting on sports competitions.
We all talk about how the Reggae Boyz experience in the lead-up to 1998 caused crime to drop in these inner-city communities, especially on the days when a game was at the stadium. People could coalesce around a common cause. Class and race and creed didn't matter. We all behaved as one. The same thing happens with the jubilation surrounding our athletes during the Olympics and World Championships.
Use sports as a tool to get the youngsters together, to parade their skills in front of their fans. Use sports to get the youths to play hard, but also to respect their opponents as well as the officials. Use sports as one avenue through which they could channel those aggressive tendencies into something more socially acceptable.
Sports won't solve all our crime problems, but it would go a far way to minimise the rot.
- Orville Higgins is a sports journalist. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.