Previously, I addressed possible solutions to solving crime and focused on a number of initiatives. Today, I’m looking at possible solutions to crime and violence in The Bahamas.
RESCUE AND REHABILITATION
Enhanced training of youth workers: Co-coordinated by the Ministry of Youth (along with relevant private agencies) to ensure that we have an adequate amount of trained youth workers to work with the various youth and community outreach programs. The ministry could also serve as the central body for coordination of efforts.
FAMILY DEVELOPMENT AND ENHANCEMENT
Parenting: Churches, community organizations and the government must make it a priority to prepare parents for parenting – regular parenting classes and a forum for dealing with parenting issues, particularly parent-teen relationships.
Marriage and parenting: As there are as many problems with parents as there are with youth, I recommend mandatory marriage and parenting classes for all seeking marriage licenses and for those giving birth. I recommend that church leaders insist on marriage and parenting classes before performing marriages or baby dedications and christenings. Additionally, all marriage offices and justices of the peace should be required to undergo marriage and parenting training or be required to refer persons wanting to be married to appropriate counselors before performing marriages.
Culture change: Since there seems to be general agreement that we have a negative culture, a concerted effort should be directed at culture change strategies – positive entertainment, positive media programming, reduction in gun promotion, awards for positive achievements of youth. There should be a concerted effort to change the gun culture and the violence and gang culture with young men. This is often fueled by hip hop and reggae artists, particularly the hip hop artists. Efforts should be made to highlight the positive artists in these genres and limit access to the artists that promote violence and death such as “drill rap” artists who sing about and endorse killing.
In addition to these immediate solutions, I would also recommend the following for long-term solutions:
Media production: Local producers should be encouraged to provide DVD’s and video production on causes and effects of violence including public service announcements directed at violence prevention. Positive movies created by Bahamians should be encouraged and promoted on our television stations.
Entertainers: Local entertainers of all types should be encouraged to produce non-violent material and to use their platforms to promote peace.
Victims: A greater focus needs to be placed on crime victims including compensation that would assist victims in recovering from their tragic losses due to criminal escalations. If not already established, a victim’s compensation fund should be established to assist victims of crime.
Gang intervention/non-violence division: Establish a gang intervention/non-violence section in the Ministry of Youth or the Ministry of Education, in conjunction with the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF), focused on addressing school-aged youth violence and gang activities and promoting non-violence and positive alternatives. In addition to basic conflict resolution, this unit would address the issues of gang violence and intervention. Consideration can also be given to a special unit within the RBPF that monitors adult street gangs (similar to what is established in major US cities).
Information technology: Establish a website with information available for youth, youth workers, parents and community leaders that would also incorporate a calendar of events and info on positive community activities.
Publicity for positive events: Through the youth ministry, publicize positive events and have the ministry partner with organizations doing events on a national level.
Moral, character and spiritual training: Must be systematically incorporated into the lives of teens in light of the statistics mentioned previously to combat the march toward destructive behavior. Schools, churches and community organizations should use or implement chapel or inspirational and informational practical sessions geared specifically toward young people.
Alternative sentencing: Youth who commit minor offenses or petty crimes should be provided with sentencing options that allow them to be supervised by social organizations or churches before incarceration is considered (elements of this appears to be already in place).
Teen and young adult fathers: All teen and young adult fathers should be required to attend parenting classes as most young fathers tend to abandon their children or have children with multiple women.
Systemic funding for prevention and rehabilitation: It is my feeling that confiscated assets from drug dealers and criminals should be earmarked for prevention and rehabilitation programs. The people who harm our youth are often rewarded while the people who help our youth are deprived of the funding needed to strategically assist in the rehabilitation.
There are many consultations and forums currently underway resulting in suggestions and recommendations being offered today. I believe that a list should be compiled of the various contributions and recommendations and a strategic action plan published that would serve as a blueprint for the way forward.
• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to firstname.lastname@example.org. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.