“Band-aids on gunshot wounds” is how a youth leader has described the manner in which the country is dealing with youth involvement in violent crime.
“ If you are serious about addressing a problem then you have to deal with that at the root so long that we keep putting bandages on gunshot wounds we are going to be amputating limbs one at a time. Ultimately, we would have none left. The issues with the young people is such an analogy because we are putting band-aids on gunshot wounds,” said Vice President of Barbados Youth Action Programme Emmanuel Beryllia.
Young people are being blamed, he said, without pertinent questions being asked about their supposed access to guns.
“We are blaming them for things that they do not even understand. For example, young men cannot find jobs, but they can find guns? How comes? They cannot find school clothes or school shoes, but they can find guns how comes? Some guns cost $5,000, $10,000, $15,000, $20,000. Some bullets cost $100 for some rounds, How comes?” he asked.
His comments came on the cuffs of four young men, ages 17, 18 and 20 being charged and remanded to prison over the shooting death of a Bank Hall bread seller.
Beryllia suggested the public was making scapegoats of the youth rather than examine the factors that were leading them to commit crime
“You can blame the drug culture, you can do a lot of blaming because at the end of the day if you are not addressing the root of the issue and if we do not identify the root of the issue we are not addressing it. The issue with our young people we do not have an issue with the young people we have an issue with adults who are capitalizing on the ignorance of young people and exploiting them and using that as scapegoats,” he told Barbados TODAY.
Beryllia who was himself jailed during his youth and deported to Barbados said that young men do not need to be incarcerated as it is a major expense to the Government. A young male on one year of remand could cost the state $36,000, he noted.
“I actually did time in prison in America and when I was 23 years old, I was sentenced to 33 years in prison and after nine years they deported me back to Barbados. So, I am not speaking from a textbook, I am speaking from the front lines. Young men do not need prison that is not what they need but correcting the problem is what we need. The youth do not need to be punished they need to be corrected. The concept of punishing a child and correcting a child are two different principles,” Beryllia said.
The youth leader suggested it would be cheaper for the State to offer him the opportunity to start his business and enroll him in a programme which could encourage him to become a law-abiding citizen.
“It would cost them $36,000 to house him per year for about the next three years as he is going nowhere anytime soon. They could have used a portion of that and give him $5,000 to start his own business and enrolled him in a programme which could mentor him to be successful in society. Instead of having him the next three years on remand for $36,000 a year or $100,000 for the three years he will be on remand,” he told Barbados TODAY.”
“We spend so much money to incarcerate the young man but we would not invest in the future for the same young man but we talk about hang them and lock them up. Prison is not the answer unless the answer is how do you reflect light. The solution is that they need programmes to instill better values in the young men and young women in our society. We have programmes but those programmes do not have the funding,” Beryllia said.
But another youth leader, the president of the Barbados Youth Development Council, Roshanna Trim, has called for a programme to help young men to hone their skills.
“A lot of guys have a lot of various skills and talents that we can use to do different things. I know that the Government is cash trapped, I know that we have difficulties as it relates to the economy and we can understand that with the [economic recovery] programme being implemented,” Trim said. “We do have to find a way to make sure that these young men are engaged and actively employed and once again the BYDC sees it as important that we look towards not only creating digital safe spaces but physical safe spaces that persons can gain skills and gain peer mentorship to keep them engaged in positive activities.”