As calls grow for the death penalty to be reinstated on the island, Charles Clayton, director of the Jamaica Institute of Planning’s community renewal program, has warned there is no evidence that capital punishment leads to a reduction in crime and violence in countries that practice it.
Clayton made the statement Thursday during his keynote address on day two of the inaugural Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry Security Summit at Rose Hall, St James.
“Some people believe that all we have to do is resume hanging and it (the crime) will stop. There is no data in the world to suggest that countries that have capital punishment have a higher success rate in terms of fewer violent incidents than those that don’t,” Clayton said.
“In fact, some of the most peaceful countries are those that don’t include capital punishment on their menu of options. A societal response is needed, but resources are scarce, and if we don’t combine our resources, the social environment cannot be properly addressed,” Clayton added, referring to societal circumstances that contribute to crime and violence. .
HOLNESS’S REMARKS CONDEMNED
Last November, Prime Minister Andrew Holness claimed that if it were up to him, criminals convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm would face the death penalty.
Holness’s remarks, which were made at the Jamaica Labor Party’s 78th Annual Conference, were later condemned by attorney Bert Samuels as barbaric and an intrusion into the Jamaican justice system.
Capital punishment is still on Jamaican law books, but can only apply to certain aggravated murder convictions. No executions have taken place under Jamaican law since 1988, when Nathan Foster was hanged after being convicted of murder.
In 1993, the UK-based Privy Council ruled that it was inhumane for a convict to wait more than five years to be executed.
At present, Trinidad and Tobago remains the only English-speaking Caribbean country to have maintained the mandatory death penalty for murder.
Clayton also noted that long-term exposure to violent actions in the home contributes to — and can exacerbate — the decades-long desensitization to violence in Jamaica.
“We seem unable to resolve differences without resorting to violence, and many of our children are growing up exposed to violence. We have a problem, and that problem is deep-rooted,” Clayton said.
His comments came shortly after National Security Minister Dr. Horace Chang called on Jamaicans to give more positive reinforcement to young people, especially young men.
“Too often our young men live as if life isn’t worth it. They need to feel they have equity in society, and if we work together we can reverse that,” Chang said. “In our hearts, Jamaicans are not people who like to hurt themselves, and now we have to restore that.”