Eye on Crime
by Anna Walcott-Hardy & Marcia Erskine
The Research Project in this issue focuses on the region's campaign aganist crime and the works of two distiguished academics - Professor Emeritus Ramesh deosaran (recently retired from The UWI, St. Augustine Campus) and Professor Anthony Harriot (of the UWI, Mona Campus) - who have devoted their careers to studying crime and its prevention and control. Writers, Anna Walcott-Hardy and Marcia Erskine individually explore the pioneering work of these scholars.
Professor Emeritus Ramesh Deosaran
by Anna Walcott-Hardy
He’s been called controversial, witty, an engaged scholar and “public” intellectual. But one label that has not been given to The University of the West Indies Professor Emeritus and Independent Senator, Ramesh Deosaran, is that of philosopher. Yet this is an attribute that the he greatly respects.
According to Senator Deosaran, although we are often accused as a people of “analysis paralysis”, that is, of analyzing ourselves into a state of inertia, he believes that in truth, our society needs to be “more reflective.” He says that we need to create a dialectic form of inquiry in order to find solutions to contemporary social challenges.
“We have a self-destructive culture of ad hoc-ism and panic responses rather than thoughtful evaluation…” he explained.
Over the years, as Director of the Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice (CCCJ) and the Ansa McAl Psychological Research Centre at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus in Trinidad, Professor Deosaran has been engaged in the development of numerous research projects commissioned by various private and state agencies. His research topics have been varied and wide reaching – Prison Recidivism, Crime and Delinquency, Poverty Reduction and Judicial Reform.
With research interests that include human resource assessment, community and institutional strengthening as well as social policy construction, he’s no rookie in the social arena. In fact, for several years he has conducted detailed research on many of the ills that are plaguing modern Caribbean society. For instance in a 1981 newspaper article on Education, he condemned the Secondary School shift system, describing it as a “breeding ground” of anti-social values and attitudes. He also called for trained psychologists in each secondary school and for teachers to receive basic training in student counseling.
Welcoming collaborative projects which are holistic in implementation, he cited instances when progress has been made through acceptance and effective managament of well-researched proposals. A case in point – Violence in Schools – a topic that burnt-up the headlines in newspapers in 2004 and 2005, but which he claimed has decreased significantly with the introduction of trained counsellors/security administrators. In fact, in a recent interview he lauded the work of the Honourable Minister of Education, Mrs. Hazel Manning, for the introduction of several initiatives proposed in a commissioned research project developed by the CCCJ, including: the establishment of measurable benchmarks by schools; the appointment of substitute teachers; and trained school safety officers who act not only as security guards, but mediators in parent-teacher disputes, and employees who look after the welfare of the school children. For according to the Professor, teachers also need to be trained to understand the nature of school violence and not label children, because “once you label a child the self-fulfilling prophecy steps in.”
“The Ministry of Education has been very sensitive to the need for proper research analysis” he noted. “These policies take a long time and perhaps the person who develops the policy should also work alongside in the implementation.”
On the other side of the coin, he denounced the fact that proposals for Prison Reform have not yet been accepted and implemented, while tensions continue to grow in remand yards and inmate cells from Golden Grove to the Royal Gaol. With a prison population of over 5,000 and a recidivism (relapse into crime) rate of approximately 60%, a report was made to the Government with 40 recommendations for reform, almost three years ago, yet “the problems remain.”
As an Independent Senator, speaking in parliament and through his newspaper columns, Professor Deosaran has made, what some may see as, contentious statements regarding crime, prison reform and even sexual education. He has argued for sex education in secondary schools, underscoring the point that ignorance of the issues among teens is a major contributor to the spread of HIV/AIDS and STDs, as well as to unwanted pregnancies.
“The church preaches self-control,” he explains, “but less so the realities of sexual biology. Self-control can be better served with an understanding of the biological reality of puberty.”
With a rising local crime rate, the UWI Centre has been receiving numerous calls for assistance. Professor Deosaran has risen to the challenge, actively coordinating and collaborating on projects, conferences and symposia with his small team of dedicated staff, to address issues of crime and justice, not only locally but regionally and internationally.
In the past year he has spoken at Conferences in the Caribbean, South Africa, USA and Canada. He has also worked in the region as an advisor to Governments in St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Grenada, where progress has been made through the establishment of National Crime Commissions.
Locally, in 2006, a conference which focused on the “New Challenges in Crime and Justice – From Research to Policy,” comprising 28 panel discussions and research presentations, was jointly hosted in Trinidad & Tobago by the Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice in collaboration with the Office of the Attorney General.
As Chairman of the Conference, Professor Deosaran asked several integral questions: “To what extent should our basic rights and freedoms be diminished in order to allow the government and its agencies to “deal” with crime and criminals? If and when such rights and freedoms are diminished and willingly surrendered by law-abiding citizens, what would they get in return? Less crime or more crime? And if more crime, as is usually the case, then what?” Additionally, he highlighted the need for funding for research into the theory of criminology, even while he acknowledged the need for concurrent research to respond to immediate policy demands. He stated that there were several bridges to cross in order to make the link between research and public policy.
UWI Vice Chancellor, Professor E. Nigel Harris has also pointed to the cost of crime to the region in terms of its debilitating effect on society and explained to the distinguished audience his university-wide initiative in collaboration with CARICOM, to establish a Caribbean Centre for Crime and Justice that would focus on research, problem-solving and training.
Later that year, at the launch of the Conference Papers entitled, ‘New Challenges in Crime and Justice: From Research to Policy’, at the Office of the Attorney General in Port of Spain, Professor Deosaran spoke of the social influence/attraction that gangs have on youth in our society.
“It seems to us that so many of the rules of civil society are being broken, whereas the gangs provide a substitute for order, discipline, consolidation and capital…many young people find comfort in gangs because their families are so disorganized, the mainstream communities are so disorganized…”
Another integral issue, the Anti-Terrorism Bill (No. 27 of 2004) was the subject of a Public Forum hosted by The UWI Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice on Saturday March 12, 2005 at The UWI St. Augustine Campus. Feature speakers included The Hon. Fitzgerald Hinds, Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security; The Hon. Gillian Lucky, Member of Parliament; Mr. Lennox Sankersingh, Political Leader, National Alliance for Reconstruction; Mr. Allan Alexander, Senior Counsel and Mr. David Abdullah, Education and Research Officer, OWTU. The Forum was attended by representatives from the public and private sector, non-governmental organizations, related professionals, the media and a wide cross-section of the national community. One of the major issues related to this Bill is the importance of striking a balance between the freedoms, privacy and rights of citizens, and the need for public safety and national security.
As a prolific writer, Professor Deosaran is also the editor of the bi-annual, Caribbean Journal of Criminology and Social Psychology and the author of Psychonomics and Poverty: Towards Governance and a Civil Society (2000), The Dynamics of Community Policing: Theory, Practice and Evaluation (2000) as well as the soon to be released The Press, A Fair Trial and The Jailed Author (2006). This latest publication, The Press, A Fair Trial and the Jailed Editor is based on the indictment, trial and conviction of Dole Chadee, a convicted ‘drug lord’ who along with ten others were convicted of horrific murders in South Trinidad, Williamsville.
The case generated great public interest, including the controversial Presidential Pardon given to one of the accused who pleaded guilty and agreed to give evidence against the others.
In the foreword to the upcoming publication, Allan J. Alexander explains that “this book is a serious contribution to the jurisprudential literature of not only the Caribbean region but other Commonwealth jurisdictions.”
Although a retired UWI Professor, Ramesh Deosaran is proud of the next generation of criminologists being trained at UWI, including the recent graduates of the Masters in Criminology. He developed the graduate programme in Criminology and Criminal Justice, which was a first for the University and the St. Augustine Campus. In 2005, the policy courses provided postgraduate training for approximately 60 teachers, police officers, probation officers and community leaders.
Having supervised 15 post-doctorate theses, he is a proponent of self development and the Socratic approach of focusing on developing a true sense of community and self, rather than one based on material wealth.
Undoubtedly, his impact, through his reaserch and writing, has been both humane and germaine. Through it all he remains optimistic about the future of crime prevention in Trinidad & Tobago. “We have had a few successes...and the future looks brighter with the interventions by the Attorney General and the support of the Ministry of Education, so far.”
Professor Anthony Harriott
by Marcia Erskine
Those still holding fast to the memory of the idyllic Caribbean island – sun-kissed, laid-back, crime-free – may readily invest hope in the work being done at The University of the West Indies, Mona, by Professor Anthony Harriott and his team of researchers.
Over the last two decades, the countries of the Commonwealth Caribbean have been experiencing rapid changes in the nature and extent of crime.
Professor Harriott notes that “new forms of crime have been emerging such as extortion rackets and kidnapping, money laundering and sophisticated white-collar crimes, drugs and firearms trafficking, transnational crime and terrorism.”
It is against this background that the Institute for Studies in Public Safety & Justice at UWI has sought to respond to the crime and security needs of the region and to develop coherent solutions to these challenges.
Under Professor Harriott’s stewardship, projects like the “South-South Cooperation for Determining Good Practices for Crime Prevention in the Developing World” have already seen encouraging levels of success.
Designed to encourage cooperation and exchange between academic researchers and state officials in the Caribbean and South Africa, Professor Harriott explained that the project “was based on the idea that there are worthwhile experiences in crime control in the South and that these needed to be evaluated and brought to the attention of policy makers and practitioners in the Caribbean.”
Sponsored by the United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime (UNODC), the project was a collaborative effort of The University of the West Indies, the University of Cape Town and the UNDOC.
Under the project, there have been a number of exchanges. South African researchers and practitioners attended the Caribbean Conference on Crime held at Mona in February 2004 and Professor Harriott participated in an International Conference on Criminal Justice – A New Decade of Criminal Justice in South Africa which was held in Cape Town in February 2005. In 2006, ten Caribbean researchers and practitioners (mainly from UWI) including two representatives of the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police shared their experiences at a seminar in South Africa (RSA).
During the seminar 40 crime prevention projects were reviewed – equal numbers from the Caribbean and South Africa. It is expected that the resulting publication “The UNODC Crime Prevention Best Practice Manual for the Developing World” will be a critical resource in crime detection and prevention in the region.
This project fits squarely within the scope of work being undertaken since January 2005, at the Centre for Studies in Public Safety & Justice, at the Mona Campus. On the initiative of Professor Barry Chevannes, a collaborative effort has been undertaken with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, an affiliate of the College University of New York.
Already, data gathered at the Centre, is pointing to trends, patterns, causes and effects of violence and crime including the emergence of “new crimes” and increased juvenile criminality and school violence, which is informing the strategies and programmes of law enforcement agencies in the Caribbean.
The work of the Institute and the Centre is critical, Professor Harriott notes, “particularly as crime is increasing in scope, intensity and sophistication, threatening the safety of citizens around the world and hampering countries in their social, economic and cultural development.”
He says that research-based knowledge at the Centre is benefiting not just Jamaica and the rest of the region, but is also proving quite useful in other regions of the world.
The Caribbean Centre of Excellence in CRIMnal Justic and Security
The University of the West Indies has over the past decade, steadily earned a reputation as a driving force and administrative centre for study and research on issues relating to crime, peace and security as they affect the Caribbean and small states in general:
- UWI, since 2001, has had representation on a special Regional Task Force established by the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to examine the major causes of crime and to recommend approaches to dealing with the problems facing the region.
- UWI participates in Meetings of the CARICOM Ministers of Law Enforcement and Security, primarily from the perspective of building human capacity, but also in a technical advisory role.
- In the area of crime and violence, UWI has established a Centre for Studies in Public Safety and Justice at Mona, Centres for Crime and Criminal Justice at St. Augustine and Cave Hill, a Violence Prevention Programme and “Partners for Peace” at Mona to provide support to community leaders, particularly in the area of education.
- The three campuses have implemented projects in a range of areas including a project in association with the World Bank on Inner City Violence in Jamaica; a Study of Business Victimization and the Relationship between Crime and Economic Development, sponsored by the World Bank; a Community Policing Study; a Study of Criminal Deportees in Jamaica and a Comparative Study of Homicide in Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica.
- A number of programmes of study are also offered at UWI including a graduate programme in Criminology and Criminal Justice (MSc, MPhil and PhD) at the St. Augustine Campus; a Bachelor’s Degree in Law at the Cave Hill Campus; undergraduate courses in Criminology on all three campuses and certificate and diploma courses in Criminology and Security at the School of Continuing Studies in all three campus countries.
- Research into crime, security and the justice system
- The development of education and training for regional law enforcement personnel
- The provision of consultancy services and policy advice to regional governments