Exploring the criminal mind

Dr. Frank McField takes over the University College of the Cayman Islands criminal sociology class in the first week of January. This class was previously taught by a Royal Cayman Islands Police Inspector – Dr. Anthony White. Now, Dr. Frank McField plans to bring his own brand of insights to the sociological studies, starting with the name, McField’s class will be called “The Sociology of Deviants.”

One teaching technique McField hopes to use is to bring suitable prisoners from Northward Prison to speak to the class about their experiences with the criminal justice system.

He hopes it will make the class “a bit unique”.

“Students can then talk to people that might be partly honest with us, to talk to us about why…they have done certain things,” McField says. “We want to know what they think about those people that have punished them, the laws that have punished them.”

McField’s own take on the issue might be considered somewhat controversial in the Cayman Islands. It is a view similar to the one expressed by French sociologist Emile Durkheim that “the authority which the moral conscience enjoys must not be excessive; otherwise, no one would dare to criticize it, and it would too easily congeal into an immutable form. To make progress, individual originality must be able to express itself…[even] the originality of the criminal… shall also be possible”

In the modern sense, McField feels resistance to Durkheim’s stated views have manifested in various ‘tough on crime’ stances taken by populist politicians in many countries.

“You hear the most acceptable politicians always talking about how to punish,” McField says. “Not how [criminals] should be restored.”

The potential participation of Northward inmates in the class will hopefully provide students with more insight into the process of how criminals are not born, but made, he says.

“They feel that society has taken from them,” he says. “[They] can create a philosophical mind set within three year and five years from which there is no turning back. How are they going to change? Nothing in the system is going to cause them to change.”

“Retribution has become more important than restoration,” McField says. “I sometimes have the feeling that in the Cayman Islands we have only judges as non-Caymanian’s and in being non-Caymanian’s they tend to have a more liberal perspective on justice and punishment- the role of punishment in society which conflicts with the general societal attitude towards crime and punishment.”

He points to the example of the Cayman Islands drug court as an example of an important reform measure to a modern criminal justice system, positing that it is the type of criminal justice reform that is becoming more common civilised societies.

McField says if Cayman is seeking to more severely punish its criminals, it is not doing so.

“The Arabs have it right; if I’m going to chop off your hand for stealing that’s’ punishment, if I’m going to leave your hand on so you can steal again then you have not been punished – I have not taken anything from you,” he says.

He’s not advocating that type of punishment in Cayman, but says it is the type of punishment-versus-restoration arguments that modern societies will have to deal with.

“Because our society has given up this kind of barbaric attitude toward punishment, we as an enlightened civilisation have to pay for that…how we pay is in tolerance,” McField says. “We are not going to take an eye for an eye…there are certain things we are not going to do.”

“We live in a society where there’s diversity, where there’s interdependency, where there’s differentiation…and therefore there has to be a great degree of tolerance because of the differences between people.”

Reading material

McField hopes that the criminal sociology class will help bring a more rounded liberal arts education to the curriculum at UCCI.

But he warns potential participants: there will be lots of reading.

“A lot of people don’t like the social sciences because it’s too much reading,” the former MLA says. “Everybody’s studying accounts.”

“What we want to do is…get people a little hot about studying and reading, and having a multidimensional education rather than just this one focus.”

The social arts education is important, McField says, even for those who are going into a more technical field.

“The people who figure are also figuring about other things as well,” he says. “So you have to have a capacity to do a little bit more than just do figures, you have to know your corporate environment you have to know your corporate value structures, how to behave and what is expected of you.”

Social behaviours have also been a major topic of review in the Education Ministry’s recent Passport2Success programme, which introduced younger students to certain norms and expectations of the workforce.

Dr. Frank says this type of social education will be a benefit to the entire country in the long run.

“We’re hoping that the social sciences at UCCI can be built in something that will be very useful, not just to our students but to the society that its students are a part of.”