Report reveals seeds of criminality

The seeds of criminal behaviour are sown early in the lives of the convicted criminals in the Cayman Islands prison system, and not enough is being done to prevent it, a new report has revealed.

Attorney General Samuel Bulgin tabled a newly released report outlining pre-disposing factors to criminality in the Legislative Assembly last week.

Report author, Barbadian criminologist Yolande Forde, has worked in several jurisdictions in the United States and the Caribbean, argues that a lack of intervention in the early years is a key factor in creating the criminals filling Cayman’s prisons.

Ms Forde’s report was produced using statistical data collection techniques analyzing a core study population of 194 prisoners.

Researchers conducted surveys on a randomly picked sample size of 30 prisoners in Northward and Eagle House that were confidential, anonymous and voluntary.

The surveys consisted of 198 questions divided into eight areas of inquiry ranging from personal history to mental health and substance abuse.

The report’s objective was to root out the underlying determinants in criminal behaviour, revealing the people behind the crime.

It reveals several criminal risk factors coursing through the backgrounds of many of Cayman Islands inmates.

In particular, the prisoners’ early years were found to have been of importance.

A full 47 per cent reported their mothers were aged 19 or younger when they were born. Without preconditions allowing proper support and nurturing, the report argues that such a child will likely be either mistreated or neglected.

Furthermore, many study participants had grown up in dysfunctional homes, punctuated by episodes of spousal and/or child abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, and raised by household members who were already involved in criminal activity and who had themselves served prison sentences.

In what the report called a disturbing finding, many inmates indicated they had performed poorly at school, either as a result of untreated learning disabilities or inappropriately suited educational programs.

A call is made to support the position proposed by of 2005 report on the National Consensus of the Future of Education in the Cayman Islands with regard to providing more technical subject options.

The report in particular takes issue with the fact that students pass through the educational system based not on merit but rather based on age, a problem that continues to perpetuate itself in the workforce.

‘Important life skills such as goal-setting and perseverance are not being instilled because they are not operating in and educational system based on meritocracy,’ Forde argues.

‘Another difficulty is that these individuals would go into the workplace and expect promotion and reward on that same basis and generally that is a false expectation.’

The inmates also revealed they had also displayed serious delinquency both in and out of school including, 64 per cent who had been either suspended or expelled, and whose parents had adapted a ‘laissez-faire’ attitude to their children’s education and behaviour; 60 per cent did not graduate high school, and of those who did graduate, only two had received a minimum of one O-level.

Looking at overt motivations for engaging in criminality, of the inmates surveyed who admitted their guilt, most had been incarcerated either as a result of a desire for money (crimes of gain), of which drug trafficking topped the list.

In a relatively prosperous society like the Cayman Islands, unemployment is not a problem. However, the report states that ‘apart from the force of habit, it may also be noted that potential property offenders tend to be among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in society.’

The study also makes a startling revelation about the perceived criminality of certain immigrant groups, Jamaicans in particular. The study revealed that of the 181 men at Northward, a full 139 are Caymanian and only 39 are Jamaicans, indicating a truly indigenous criminality problem.

Of the prisoners interviewed, a majority of whom were aged 25 and older, most were frequent repeat offenders and a full 53 per cent had been in lock-up as a child.

A general attitude among the prisoners was that insufficient rehabilitation and parole support was on offer.

Drug use, with ganja at the forefront, was also a large part of interviewees’ lives, prevalent both inside and outside of prison with little deterrence from the possibility of drugs testing.

The report stresses the importance of the fundamental difference between controlling crime and creating a society where people are taught to control themselves, urging changes be made for a comprehensive and holistic crime prevention strategy.

‘Everything must be done to address the circumstances that are crime generative in nature that the individual does not develop a criminal disposition,’ it says.

The report also blames current conditions on the foundations of past crime prevention strategies in the Cayman Islands.

‘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,’ it says.

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