Let this sink in. Jamaica has recorded more deaths by the cruel hands of its own citizens (8+) since the 1st #COVID19 case was indentified than from the viral infection (0). Understand what I real sickness is?
That’s absolutely frightening to me and it should be to anyone but those with cruel hands.
I’m a confirmed liberal but I am having a serious problem which shows that I am at my wits end, but I have not given up and am desperately searching for a workable solutions to the burdensomeness of living in a society where 4-5 people are murdered each day on a island of under 3 million people (a rate of ~50-60/100,000). But, recall, that at Independence in 1962, Jamaica had 63 murder (~4/100,000). We know the landscape for violent crime changed markedly in the 1970s and had at its base the political arming of factions of the society. What we have now is the legacy of that, plus the actual and perceived interlocking of criminal with politics and business and even the police.
For several days, I have been wondering what it would take to get real control on the most frightening aspect of crime in Jamaica, the murder rate and level. I put out a poll, that might have seemed whimsical, asking if we should consider things like the public pillory. Shame is one thing that most Jamaicans just do not handle well, I put that out there as a way of addressing the motive for certain crimes.
What’s clear is that nothing we have tried really has dented the willingness of certain people to kill their fellow citizens. I suggested a few days ago that we try to better understand what’s driving some of these (mainly) young men, by having them on TV or radio to tell their stories. My basic point is that, unless and until we understand the driving forces at work in the actions of these people, we must fail; this is so for any problem.
Now, I’m often resistant to those who want to be amateur psychologists, so I will draw on a quick read of some material on criminal psychology. The best summary I have found is decades old (1940s), and offers the following:
We can subdivide law-breakers into five types: 1) The ordinary man who is driven to crime by overwhelming external circumstances. 2) The apparently normal individual who is carried away by an irresistible impulse. 3) The neurotic criminal who is driven by equally irresistible but unconscious forces, the nature of which is unknown to him. He regards his criminal tendencies as foreign to his personality and tries vainly to struggle with them. 4) The genuine criminal who prides himself on the delinquent exploits in which he expresses his anti-social attitude. 5) A group of criminals whose behaviour is the result of mental deficiency or organic illness. They present a medical and not a psychological problem so we should treat them differently.
Criminal psychology studies indicate that the majority of criminals either make excuses for, or attempt to justify, their actions. There’s little evidence that these justifications are made prior to committing the crimes, so it’s possible—and somewhat likely—that they’re thought up afterwards as a way to mitigate the guilt.
Criminologists have interviewed every imaginable sample of individuals who break laws, and found remarkable consistency in the use of what we call ‘techniques of neutralization. There have been studies of deer poachers, terrorists, rapists, shoplifters, cyber hackers, murderers,etc. They find the individuals involved tend to use a very consistent and discernible number of post-hoc rationalizations to account for what they did.
These “techniques of neutralization” form the basis of a concept known as “neutralization theory,” which was posited by sociologists David Matza and Gresham Sykes in the 1950s. The theory holds that criminals are able to neutralize values that would otherwise prohibit them from carrying out certain acts by using one or up to five methods of justification: “denial of responsibility,” “denial of injury,” “denial of the victim,” “condemnation of the condemners,” and “appealing to higher loyalties.”
There are also ‘Freudian’ notions that suggest criminals want to be caught, that they are burdened with guilt. But, studies also show that no such notions reside in the minds of criminals.
For the most part, criminals plan every move while premeditating crimes. They calculate what will transpire from the moment they conceive of a crime until after they make their getaway. They know the occupational hazards of crime—getting caught, convicted, confined, injured or killed in a high risk crime. By the time a criminal is prepared to enact the crime, he is certain he will succeed and has eliminated these deterrents from consideration. There is a “superoptimism” in which he regards the crime as a fait accompli. His experience supports this certainty. He knows the likelihood of being arrested is low. He previously has gotten away with crimes without anyone suspecting him as the perpetrator. Aware of the possibility that he could slip up, he is certain that this will not happen “this time.”
Regrets are about getting caught.
So, with all that, what must happen is for criminals to be filled with much more doubt than currently exists. I’ve tackled this before by saying the risk:reward relationship must till much more heavily toward risk. In Jamaica, we know the skew is heavily toward reward—simply put, crime pays. But, crime also imposes huge costs on society, its economic foundations and the psychological well-being of people.
We also know that in a society where many struggle for basics, that the criminal can often be seen as friend rather than foe and that enablers are ready to support not least because they benefit from crimes with fewer risks. Add to that a state apparatus that has often shown itself to be unfair or unjust or downright cruel in arbitrary ways (read there ‘extra-judicial killings) and we have a huge chasm to cross in getting more citizens onside. That doesn’t leave us in a great place, but I think it leaves me with material that I can work with in seeing a path ahead.
I know that most countries that are now absolutely peaceful with low levels of murders and low murder rates (eg Japan, Scandinavia) were once extremely violent places. So, we know that dramatic change can happen, but it doesn’t happen fast.
We know that greatly reducing personal gun ownership is a (modern) necessity. So, too, is a judicial system where it’s more apparent that crime is not successful.
However, what we have seen in many places where the rates of murder are very low (remember the USA is in that category (~5/100,000) is that a tendency exists for mass murders, as well as the emergence or inability to remove other kinds of violent crime (eg domestic abuse), or the emergence of less-violent (say, white-collar) crimes. So, society is not crime-free, but the configuration of crimes is different.
What we also see is that such countries have societies that much less unequal and have achieved a high level of prosperity (not that all poor countries have high rates of murder and violent crime). We know that the pipeline of potential criminals in Jamaica is long and many disaffected young men are ready to join the ranks.
So, our path is long as we have much that is wrong that needs to be be fixed. It’s not clear that all who should be engaged in the struggle against criminals are of the same mind, and without that consensus, I see much more of the bad before we can start to see any hope of the good.