The chief lawmaker of the land everywhere else supervises the drafting of legislation –– without hesitation –– to deal with resistant or burgeoning lawlessness, providing a remedy for it. Ours, for the better part, indulges in lamentation, pleading, wishful thinking and daydreaming by way of what passes as motivational speeches.
There has been no such other distinctly mistaken Attorney General of Barbados than our current Minister of Home Affairs The Honourable Adriel Brathwaite.
Just quite recently, Mr Brathwaite was appealing –– from the pulpit –– to the selfish and inconsiderate neighbourhood fire-setters to “work with us [the Government]”. There he was entreating grossly irresponsible people who have been at this perilous practice now for years too long.
The thing is Attorney General Brathwaite has had and still has the means of dealing with this burning issue by means of tougher legislation for these wilful garbage fire raisers.
Now, Mr Brathwaite, in these very hard economic times –– when, among other hardships, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital cannot pay on time for its pharmaceuticals because of a cash flow problem –– would have taxpayers’ money diverted to one of his dreams of a special “facility” for delinquent young folk.
Ever since Adam was a lad, the Government Industrial School has been the place where overly “hard-ears” children were sent for remedial therapy –– those dependents whom the Attorney General describes as “children who may not have run afoul of the law, but who need added guidance and structure in their lives”, or as the “at-risk youth”.
That –– by inference –– the Government Industrial School is no longer effective in the rehabilitation of the wayward youth is a sad reflection on the Attorney General and his department, and ancillary entities, as they have final responsibility for the construct and administration of the system established many years ago to put our young delinquents on a path of correctiveness.
And it isn’t that a more profound thought process on the allegedly currently racked modus operandi, or on the restructuring of the Government Industrial School, or on a refocus won’t speak to the new challenges presented by our wayward youth.
Dodds Prisons, with definitively hardened criminals to deal with, does get these hardback men and women to mend their wicked ways through counselling and productive engagement. And Dodds and support teams are not unknown to boast of the prisons’ rehabilitative successes and thwarting of recidivism or regression to large extents.
Of course, we do not pretend to project this inmate reforming as any easy task, for where adults have mindsets and deep-seated bad habits, change can be a challenge.
Yet, Mr Brathwaite has a problem with the Government Industrial School being a place for getting the disobedient young back on the straight and narrow, because –– by implication of the Attorney General –– these dependants do not have access to a father or mother figure “to ensure they do the right thing”.
Actually, there are father and mother figures everywhere in this society: if not at home, at school; at church; in the shops; in the stores; in the minimarts; in the supermarkets; in the buses; in the streets; at sports clubs; in the Scouts; in the Guides. What more can the Attorney General want?
It is really not so much where these troubled and troublesome children will be housed as it is what mixed messages they continue to receive from those of us of influence and with authority. And what exactly is this “non-institutional setting” Mr Brathwaite has conceptualized? Shall we visualize a hotel-like or gated community-like environment, with pool and video game rooms?
What does this say for ther reward of the obedient child in much less salubrious surroundings who goes to school and church, and may be a Scout or Guide, and who honours his or father and mother that his or her days may be long in the land which the Lord our God has given us all?
We share, however, the Attorney General’s concern about children leaving the Government Industrial School with nowhere to go and nothing apparently to do. But this must be through a lack of appropriate preparation over time by the functionaries of the correctional institution –– which speaks to the dire need for deep refocus, which we alluded to earlier.
It is not so much where, Mr Attorney General, as it is how!