Opportunities lost: Crime and social intervention
After heated opposition from many, the government postponed parliamentary debate on the Interception of Communications Bill 2017. The bill is touted as a crime-fighting tool and a modernization of legislation related to listening devices, offering privacy protections that were heretofore absent.
Because of tremendous technological advances in communication, especially with social media platforms like the ubiquitous WhatsApp, elements of the legislation are necessary.
Critics of the legislation question the timing of the bill just months before a general election. Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson indicated that the postponement is to allow for more public consultation.
Given the sensitivity of this legislation, the failure to initially seek greater public consultation also worries critics, many of whom do not trust the attorney general.
Mistrust for the attorney general is based on her conflict of interest at Baha Mar and the granting of several curious nolle prosequis by the Office of the Attorney General, including one to a former client of hers while she was out of the country.
The curious and troubling failure of the government to provide a legal basis for the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) engendered considerable mistrust in the PLP in the field of intelligence gathering and surveillance.
Whatever the merits of the legislation, it is engulfed by mistrust of the Christie administration.
The PLP touts the NIA and the interception bill as important elements of its crime-fighting agenda. Such elements are important if they are well-crafted and there is vigorous oversight of intelligence activities, which are always open to abuse.
But even as the PLP pushed forward on some measures of its anti-crime agenda, it made a giant step backward in the legalization of hothouse casino-style gambling.
The PLP’s other profound error was the tragic failure to offer serious intermediate and long-term socialization and anti-crime measures, such as in education and social intervention strategies.
The legalization of the numbers enterprises-cum-gambling houses, has led to a proliferation of gambling outlets popping up throughout the country.
Glitzy new buildings are being erected, and others restored, to provide for an enhanced gambling and casino experience for gamblers.
The proliferation of these gambling enterprises and an ever-growing gambling culture in The Bahamas is sucking the lifeblood out of poorer urban centers and a number of Family Island communities.
The dizzying array of games and opportunities to bet, whether from home, on a mobile device or in a gambling establishment, is creating a gambling culture; the effects of which are going to be seen for decades to come, and may be measured in all manner of negative social consequences for individuals, families and society.
Whereas in the past, Bahamians could gamble a few times a day, access to gambling is now 24/7.
A legacy of Perry Christie and the PLP is mass gambling and the effects of such gambling on our cultural habits and social norms.
This is reminiscent, though obviously not exactly the same, as the disastrous consequences of the drugs culture of the 1970s and 80s, which was aided and abetted by the PLP of that era.
Part of what makes this so pernicious is that the country voted against the legalization of the numbers business – a vote which the PLP faithfully promised to abide by.
As pernicious, are the vast profits going into the coffers of a relative few at the expense of a broader social and common good. There is a profound matter of social justice.
Families and communities are being starved of money and resources. Had there been a well-regulated national lottery, with limited times for gambling by consumers, potentially hundreds of millions could have gone toward national and social development, and targeted and effective social intervention measures.
Intelligence gathering through an interception bill and the NIA will help in terms of certain criminal activities. But they are limited measures, and can only do so much.
By allowing the proliferation of gambling enterprises, and by failing to introduce a measure such as a national lottery to help provide state resources to youth development and socialization, the PLP failed to do considerably more in terms of a comprehensive anti-crime agenda.
One measure that could have a profound effect on a number of our young people is Outward Bound, an “experiential learning, expedition school and outdoor learning program… that serves people of all ages and backgrounds through challenging learning expeditions that inspire self-discovery, both in and out of the classroom”.
The highly successful global initiative also offers a program known as the Intercept Program for At-Risk Youth and Troubled Teens. It is designed for young people ages 12 to 22 and addresses “the needs of struggling teens and at-risk youth beginning to demonstrate destructive behaviors, as well as the needs of their families”.
The Intercept Program serves “youth, young adults, families, schools and communities… at risk of academic failure, dropping out of school, delinquency or becoming chronic offenders”.
Another measure is AMIkids, the brainchild of a judge who got tired of seeing the same juvenile offenders returning to his court over and over. Today, AMIkids is thought to operate “some of the most effective juvenile justice and alternative education programs across” the United States.
To offer readers a clear sense of AMIkids there are extended quotes following from the organization’s website:
“Residential programs operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with students residing in dormitories on campus. The youth are committed to these programs for approximately four to nine months and can be committed for as long as 36 months.
“The youth reside at the program and leave only for off-site, supervised program activities or approved furloughs. Family visitations vary by program. Youth have been adjudicated delinquent by the court and typically have multiple misdemeanors or felonies.”
“Education curriculums deployed in AMIkids programs use differentiated instruction, individualized student planning, progress monitoring, on-line/computer assisted educational software, and experiential education/service learning, all in partnership with pro-social relationships between staff and students.
“Many youth come to AMIkids ‘deficient in a wide variety of appropriate, pro-social behavioral repertoires. They lack social skills, anger management, pre-employment skills, communication, self-management, rule following, delay of immediate gratification, etc.
“To help students develop short and long-term pro-social behavioral repertories, and facilitate the daily management of behavior throughout the program, AMIkids programs employ procedures and techniques of behavior modification and utilize a sophisticated behavior modification system.”
Like Outward Bound and other successful intervention programs, AMIkids utilizes experiential learning: “AMIkids’ experiential education gives each student the opportunity to face challenges and to overcome them, gaining greater self-worth and helping to form a better value system.
“Programs are integrated based on the geographic strengths of each location and include seamanship, water safety, fishing, low ropes, high ropes, backpacking, music, gardening, culinary arts, reptile and wilderness programs to give each student meaningful and challenging experiences in a variety of ways.
“… For those kids with more serious learning and behavioral issues, there have been startling results.”
The last five years of the PLP tell a sad tale of opportunities missed: to help scores of young people, to help reduce gang membership and violence, to better fight crime and to make our Bahamas more peaceful.
Intelligence gathering is critical. It is a necessary reactive strategy. But it is not as proactive as reaching our children before they enter and are negatively socialized by a gang culture and the culture of criminal violence.
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