2006 report highlights factors contributing to crime in Cayman Loop Cayman Islands

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Cayman Compass

Almost two decades ago, Yolande Forde, a Consultant Criminologist, conducted a study on the causes of rising crime in the Cayman Islands to advise the Government of the Cayman Islands on the strategies that need to be adopted in terms of primary crime prevention and the management of offenders.

Forde’s findings were set out in a June 2006 report entitled “Report on Pre-Disposing Factors to Criminality in the Cayman Islands” and was submitted to the Government for further consideration.

One of Forde’s critical things was that to tackle crime, there “must be some conceptual distinction between situational crime prevention and dispositional crime prevention.”

Regarding situational crime prevention, Forde said this comprised “measures” that “need to be adopted to control the physical opportunities that facilitate criminal activity.” These measures have a substantial focus on policing.

Concerning policing, Forde commented on its effectiveness versus dispositional crime prevention at the time of her report.

She said:

It is unfortunate that, over the years, myopic and blinkered views about crime prevention have led to an emphasis on situational crime prevention and control (i.e., policing) much to the neglect of more primary forms of prevention which would have ultimately meant less hassle for the police and also less expenditure.

She continued: “What is hoped for in the Cayman Islands is a comprehensive and holistic crime prevention strategy, one that contains elements of situational crime prevention and dispositional crime prevention.”

Forde appears to have highlighted dispositional crime prevention in addition to policing because, according to Forde, the dispositional crime prevention approach helps to identify the factors which seem to predispose a person to criminal behaviour (i.e., the “root causes of crime”).

Some of the root causes of crime in Cayman

To gather data on some of the root causes of crime in Cayman, Forde examined the backgrounds of persons in the population at HMP Northward (for adults) and Eagle House (for teenagers).

Such examinations, reportedly conducted through interviews, captured information on “offenders’ key life experiences, behaviour and attitudes.” This included:

Personal HistoryEmployment/Work HistoryCommunity and Organizational InvolvementCriminal ProfileReligious ParticipationFamily BackgroundEducational/School BackgroundMental Health and Substance Abuse

Explaining why she looked at these factors, Forde said: “Every time a major crime is committed e.g., a bank robbery or a heinous murder, there is a public outcry about the horror of the incident but, comparatively, very little attention is paid to the underlying determinants of criminal behaviour. But crime does not commit itself; behind every criminal act is a person. So what are the factors that predispose a person to criminal involvement? What are the variables that tend to go into the equation of criminal behaviour? In the practice of criminology, these are perfectly valid research questions and are in fact the subject matter of this study on criminality in the Cayman Islands.”

Looking at each of the factors, in turn, Forde made several recommendations.

Educational/School Background

Regarding educational background, Forde said that one of the pre-disposing factors to criminality in the case of an inmate she interviewed may have been the educational set-backs that the inmate had some 20-25 years earlier.

She noted:

The failure of the educational system to identify his problem and cater to his needs as a child and teenager may have robbed him of the wherewithal to become a productive, well-adjusted adult who could have been an asset, rather than a burden, to the state.

This situation provides direct proof that phenomena such as education and school experiences, which might not be initially seen as having any bearing on the level of criminality, in fact do.

To help deal with the educational factor, Forde made the following recommendations:

It is imperative that a well-designed plan of remedial education is developed and firmly pursued to ensure that, from an early age, low achievers are given the kind of special and dedicated attention they need and deserveThere needs to be a school program for technical and vocational education. This would most likely include, but not be limited to, the development or utilization of a technical training institute to teach viable income-generating skills. We must allow non-academics to leave the school system with more than just a low self-esteemCayman should establish a Finishing School so that many broad-based life skills can be taught and values imparted and, whether a student is academically weak or strong, he/she can leave such an institution capable of becoming a responsible, well-adjusted adultStrategies must be developed to increase parents’ involvement in a child’s learning and school life. Consideration should also be given to establishing legal grounds on which parents could be held accountable in a court of law for neglecting their parenting responsibilitiesEarly intervention in the schools through teachers, guidance counselors, senior tutors, etc., who are all well-positioned to see, in its embryonic stage, the behaviour that later mushrooms into a full-fledged criminal career. Everything must be done at this early stage to prevent the full flourishing of such conduct

Criminal history

Stressing the importance of early intervention, Forde noted in her report that the “majority of inmates in prison in the Grand Cayman are not first-time offenders, in fact they are perpetual offenders.”

Forde added: “In the Cayman Islands prison population where the majority of inmates are repeat prisoners now in their twenties and thirties, it is pertinent to note that the largest proportion of them, 50%, were first imprisoned as teenagers.”

This data in the 2006 report supported Forde’s concern that if predisposing criminal factors are not addressed at a young age, some young people will find themselves “repeatedly engaging in conduct that brings them to the attention of police as criminal suspects.”

Analyzing all the data from the control group at the time, Forde noted:

The foregoing discussion suggests that a history of arrests and convictions, imprisonment at a young age, juvenile delinquency and, importantly, the state’s response in the past to juvenile offenders are all factors that can promote more, instead of less, criminality.

Furthermore, as the data and the discussion above reveal, these factors are part of the profile of many Northward and Eagle House inmates who have now become Cayman’s persistent offenders.”

Forde concluded: “Findings in this study tend to support criminological convictions that involvement in the criminal justice system at an early age significantly increases the risk of recidivism.”

Expressing the same concern differently, Forde said:

A point that needs to be carefully noted is that this type of incarceration of children presumably as a form of deterrence normally does not work unless the crime generative factors operating in the person’s life are also addressed.

To use a health care analogy, this is akin to reacting to the symptom of an illness without treating the cause, so the condition worsens and becomes chronic and/or acute in nature.

Forde’s report also noted feedback from inmates who described many issues which led to challenges upon release from prison. Some of these are:

Need for more effective rehabilitation at the prison, including more support systems and skills training to give them a fair chance at leading a pro-social life and avoiding criminal activity in the future Need for assistance with employment upon release from prisonProgrammes needed to address discipline, self-control, and work ethic required to maintain employment

With these concerns in mind, Forde recommended the following:

Immediate referrals for compulsory participation in a program of intervention for juveniles and their families as an alternative to prosecution. This would include intensive counseling and treatment where assessments reveal that such intervention is needed along with measures to control the juvenile – curfews, etc.Instead of sending off juvenile offenders to an institution, judicial officials could sentence him/her to an intensive probation program that emphasizes close monitoring and supervision and where the juvenile is required to complete community workAlong the continuum of post-court interventions for youthful offenders must be a residential facility that can provide a comprehensive program of self – improvement for its participants. Such a facility should also have education and employment armsEstablishment of a residential Youth Training and Rehabilitation CenterStrengthening of Probation After-Care Unit, which has responsibility for the supervision of paroleesPost-Release Supervision and Support Program and Unit (e.g., Halfway House) to assist with the resettlement of all vulnerable prisoners who have been assessed and in need of supervision and support. Such a program is a necessity if authorities wish to address the high incidence of re-offending in the nation

Family Background

Looking closely at inmates’ families, Forde studied several variables to determine criminal risk factors. These included the following:

Poor Parenting Skills – the teenage mothers of offendersParental Separation and AbsenceRejection by Parent(s)Domestic Conflict and ViolenceChild AbuseAlcoholism among family membersIllicit Drug Use among Members of Inmate’s HouseholdCriminality among family members

Following her interviews of inmates in connection with the above, Forde shared:

Several inmates told painful stories of how they were rejected by their mothers or fathers or both. Based upon studies reviewed, parental rejection appears to be among the most powerful predictors of juvenile delinquency and criminality. However, beyond this known correlation, much is still left to be learnt in terms of exactly how rejection contributes to criminal causation.

Using data to support her findings, Forde said that “Forty three percent (43%) of the respondents in this study indicated that they did not feel accepted and loved by their parent(s)/guardians.” This is depicted in the below chart.

Forde added:

Many of the men interviewed related detailed life histories of being abandoned, being rejected and neglected, just being hurt as children and, as criminological literature would attest, these are crime generative circumstances.

To address these issues, Forde’s recommended the following:

That psychotherapy and psychological counseling services be made available on frequent basis to the inmates at Northward and Eagle HouseFamily support programs – interventions which aim to strengthen families and improve the quality of child rearing which occurs in the home Support programs must be designed and structured to cover the developmental span from infancy to adolescence and programs must range from those that are general to those that are highly specialized, which are intended for parents and children under severe stress and where the family is in crisisNecessary legislative arrangements be made to place on a sound legal footing the ability of judicial officers to order mandatory family therapy in situations where the case reflects evidence of family breakdown

Drug use

Some people who struggle with the foregoing issues may also turn to drug use, which may become a factor in recurring crime.

Regarding this, Forde said:

Apart from the numerous health risks associated with drug use, research has demonstrated a strong link between drugs and criminality. Drug users report greater involvement in crime and are more likely than non-users to have a criminal record; criminal offences also increase with the use of drugs (Calkin and Calkin, 1990).

The situation in the Cayman Islands gives some credence to these assertions. Chart 4.7 below shows that 40% of the inmates in prison believe that their drug abuse has influenced their involvement in crime.

Forde added:

One inmate, Interviewee 112, confessed that he was high on cocaine the day that he murdered his girlfriend. Another inmate, a cocaine addict who is serving time for 9 counts of burglary in addition to other crimes, had this to say when asked “Do you think your use of illegal drugs influenced your involvement in crime?”

“Yeah, if you can’t steal money, you may find a camera, gold watch or something the drug pushers would take as payment”.

In the case of drug use as factor, Forde made the following recommendations:

Sentencing Drug Abusing Offenders: Sentencing options that allow the courts to respond in an intelligent way to drug abusers and drug-abusing offenders and balance offender rehabilitation with public safety. Forde suggested that this is preferred over an over-reliance on fines and imprisonmentDrug Treatment in Prison: Initiation of drug treatment and intervention for inmates in prison that require it but are not getting itThroughcare: Provision must be made for rehabilitating drug abusers to access appropriate support services upon release from prison. This helps them transition from prison to community. Unless the treatment they receive in prison is maintained on their return to the community, the chances that they will relapse and re-offend to support their drug use are great

Summary

The above 2006 findings by Forde are being reshared because the issue of ongoing crime has received public attention recently.

Summarising her findings, Forde said that “To understand the true cause of crime, one has to focus on the dynamics and processes that have produced the disposition of the criminal.”

She emphasized:

It is important to understand that there is a fundamental difference between controlling the incidents of crime and teaching people, from a young age, how to control themselves.

Everything must be done to address the circumstances that are crime generative in nature so that the individual does not develop a criminal pre-disposition.

(Source: Report on Pre-Disposing Factors to Criminality in the Cayman Islands)

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