If we are to engage in self-repair, we must own the legal system, says attorney-at-law David Comissiong.
He made this observation last night during a panel discussion on the topic: Self Reparations: Repairing the Damage at the Spirit Bond Mall, the City.
Comissiong said: “When we look at the legal system we must see ourselves. We must see our Police Force, our law courts and our system of justice. If we continue to see a legal system that is the product of the cultural ethos of the dominance of Britain and Europe, then we perpetuate the cultural and psychological damage that was done to us during colonialism. We then want to look at the laws which still bear their colonial origin. We ask that they be removed.”
Taking a look at the persons who come before the criminal justice system, Comissiong said: “Many of the persons who come before the criminal justice system come from a background of the alienation, the poverty, the marginalization, the psychological damage that was inflicted on them and their communities during centuries of slavery and colonialism and the holdovers from that period.
“Therefore we must understand that the colonial justice system was all about punishment. In a regime that seeks to repair damage, the criminal justice should be aimed at being much more rehabilitative and much more redemptive. It should be seeking to give support and assistance to persons who come a background of that kind of damage and deprivation,” Comissiong said.
He pointed out that while our criminal system was adversarial, the Cuban system was investigative, pointing out that under that system, officials try to find out why the offender committed the crime and psychologists were part of the process.
The attorney-at-law suggested that Barbadians examine the Cuban criminal justice system which sought to rehabilitate offenders.
He said: “The Cuban system has an individualized approach to rehabilitation. After the initial orientation programme, the prisoner is assigned to a group called the detachment of approximately 80 inmates supervised by a rehabilitation counsellor. Civilians and prison officials also work directly with the prisoner. Each detachment elects a council that presents the concerns of the detachment to the prison management. The prisoner is provided with educational programmes learning skills if needed, courses in history and the sciences. Prisoners who have the requisite education may work as teachers within the prison.”
Comissiong noted that under the Cuban criminal justice system there were rights to conjugal visits and accommodation is provided for the couple.
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