by Latoya Burnham
A warm and loving household can act as a buffer for young people’s involvement in crime.
But, said panellist in the September 3rd Foundation lecture on The Causes of and Solutions to Youth Alienation and Crime in Barbados, Monica Chase, this does not mean youth from loving homes will not commit crime.
“I will conclude that good parenting and loving, caring families, where respect with warmth and personal relationships are the norm, act as buffers to prevent young people’s involvement in crime. We must understand that this does not mean that coming from a loving home prevents the youth from turning to crime but it can contribute to that person’s resilience level,” she stated.
Noting that she was speaking from the background of a seminar that was held earlier this year with young people looking at the reasons for crime, Chase said she had found that many parents were losing their children between the ages of 11 and 16.
Contending that adolescence was one of the most critical stages of personality formation, she said adults needed to be able to tap into and relate to these young people about things that the adults themselves have gone through so they would feel less alone in doing so.
“A lot of us have gone through it but we tend to put it in the back of our minds for one reason or another.”
She urged parents too to stop expressing negative views about their sons while putting their daughters on a pedestal.
“Boys and girls are all the same, they are no different and some boys are more focused than the girls are. We need to stop putting our boys down in the bucket and putting our girls up on the pedestal. That is still happening in Barbados today.”
She said she believed parents really needed to sit down and examine themselves before passing blame on the youth, claiming that many of them because of low self-esteem were seeking love somewhere other than in the home.
She told the story of a young man who went to one of the island’s highest institutions, but who by the age of 17 was in prison and by 27 had already been jailed for seven different crimes. She said the young man, during the discussion forum, told of 11 other colleagues from his fourth form year group that had been in jail the same time he was.
She challenged adults to show their children love and for leaders to examine the prison system particularly where crimes among the youth are concerned.
Stating that she knew of a first offender who had been jailed for snatching a cellphone, Chase questioned whether this was an appropriate sentence for the young man.
“I don’t know that that was the right way to go for a 16 year old. I don’t know if the magistrate thought she would scare him, I don’t know. But I know that when he came out of prison, he was speaking like if he had gone to Las Vegas. He was talking about being a 16-year-old and the older persons trying to snatch his food and having to defend himself for a plate of food, right there at Dodds.
“So I don’t know if that is the environment we want to put a 16-year-old that has just snatched a cellphone. It is a serious offence, but do we want to put them there among hardened criminals. Is that the best route to take. So I think we need to look at the question, is the prison population being educated or reformed?
“We need to utilise the professionals that we have in the right areas in order to tap into the unwanted behaviour. We need to look at behaviour modification and let them become a part of their own behaviour modification.”