It is a fairly common occurrence nowadays, as some of our young men are brought before the courts on various criminal charges, to witness them proudly waving or giving the thumbs up to friends gathered in the courtyard. Some also have broad grins on their faces.
This baffling display of behaviour stands in sharp contrast with expressions of shame and embarrassment by accused law breakers in the past. It conveys the impression that some of our young men regard running afoul of the law and facing the possibility of serving time in prison, as some great personal achievement that elevates them to a kind of hero among their peers.
According to the word on the street, having a criminal record today, especially if it includes a prison stint, also makes some young men particularly attractive to certain females. It is said that these young women include such “bad boy credentials” high on the list of qualities an ideal male partner should have. These counter-culture values expressed by some of our youth, which include a perception of prison as place to cool out, are rooted in an unfortunate misconception that is so remote from the reality which actually exists. What is really so cool, in the estimation of any right-thinking person, about being known to the criminal justice system, spending time in prison, and ending up with a ruined reputation?
Being deprived of personal freedom, spending hours locked up in a cell and having to lead a life complying with the instructions of others or face the consequences is certainly not a “cool” state to be in. And what about the ostracism which greets ex-cons on their release from prison as they attempt to reintegrate into a society which is not easy to forgive? The “rude boys” ought to reflect on these things.
Last week, readers of our court pages would have seen the story of a young man who had a reality check about what prison life is truly like after a brief period on remand. He was ordered to do community service for the minor drug offence he had committed but refused to comply with the court order, even suggesting that he was not worried about the consequences.
After his brief stay at HMP Dodds, the 20-year-old returned to court with a changed attitude. He told the magistrate: “I really can’t handle it in prison, that time killing me . . . . There [jail] ain’t no place for me. I honestly can’t stay in jail. People just coming round me . . . taking my things. I am not a bad boy, Sir. I just asking if I can get another chance to prove myself. I begging you. I can’t handle it please.”
At least, this young man was honest enough to make this candid admission. Hopefully, it will serve as a reality check for other wayward youth who are fascinated by the idea of going to prison. No doubt, there are many other young offenders who are minded to make the same admission about their prison experience but are prevented from doing so because being tough is an integral part of the rude boy image.
The young man, who has hopefully learnt a lesson, was given a second chance at community service. If civics were still taught as a subject in our secondary schools, this story would have been a good choice as required reading for classroom discussion.
If we are to make any meaningful headway in restoring the kind of respect for law and order that once existed in our society, it must begin in the home and school by instilling in the minds of our children that going to jail for breaking the law does not pay.
Back in the 1970s, the late Barbadian cultural legend, Alfred AP Pragnell, recorded a folk song about the tough life at the former Glendairy prison.
“If yuh think I telling a lie, wunnah all could go for seven days and try,” the song advised the skeptics.
Glendairy is now history, having been replaced some years ago by Dodds, but the message of the song remains as relevant today as it was back when it was recorded. So, as AP urged, “Follow the song and don’t do wrong. The song will show the right way how to get along.”