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Small Islands Voice Global Forum

Breaking the cycle of crime and violence

In this response Brian Mommsen proposes some ways to break the cycle of crime and violence among young people that is prevalent in many small islands these days.

What we are saying here is that it takes a village to raise a socially responsible child. As the cycles of violence, economic prosperity, spiritual awareness, etc. rise and fall in small and large communities, it is natural for most humans to seek stability and speak of a better past, the good old days, and to worry about an uncertain future - a future that they fear will be the breakdown of their society. So what the readers of this discussion want is an answer as to how they can break the present cycle of violence and what role does the family, community, and punishment play. The problem and the solution are complex, but not beyond understanding and implementation.

If the death penalty and threat of prison worked as a deterrent in free societies today, then why does America have the greatest prison population in the world? America has over 2 million people in prison (one out of every 142 citizens - 25% of the world's total prisoners) and the rates for crime and murder are still increasing. In spite of the fact that so many criminals are already in prison and that the United States has the laws, police and prison officers, and courts to protect the citizens - the tough law and order system of the past 30 years is not working to protect America's society. So tougher laws and punishment are not the answer. Smarter laws, rehabilitation, and drug treatment can help take us in the right direction.

In today’s world with the help of the media (TV, film, rap music, magazines, video games, etc.) the gangster image has become glamorised - no longer is there any sense of shame and failure to be jailed for criminal activity or to have a police record. Often too the media focus on the double standards of some of our political, religious and business leaders and ignore the healthy role models represented by other leaders in society. Obviously they do this in order to sell more copies or programmes, but in so doing they chose to ignore their own social responsibility. Unfortunately, some young people in small-island communities are influenced by all this and want to imitate the criminal heroes. It is a struggle for the small-island family and community to raise and educate their young under these conditions.

If you cannot maintain a community atmosphere where anti-social behaviour results in becoming an outcast of society - then the young will believe they will be accepted under any conditions and that any kind of behaviour is OK. Living on an island gives the community an extra option in dealing with those who do not follow the morals and laws of the island - banishment. To send someone into exile (for whatever period of time) is humane punishment. It will teach a lesson to everyone.

Another thing to consider - when I lived on the island of Palau (Micronesia, Pacific) they had stiff penalties for possession of a gun, or even a single bullet! Most glamorised violence involves guns - so remove the guns.

In summary - there are influences inside and outside the island community that promote harmony and violence. To understand what those influences are and to act constructively to bring more peace and less disruption to the community requires everyone's cooperation - top to bottom. Focus has to be on that which is in your control. The village needs to reinforce the foundations of moral behaviour in the family, the schools, and in its own honest behaviour - for no generation will follow the rules of a hypocritical role model. The young are influenced more by what you do then what you say.

Messages In This Thread

How much more? (crime and violence)
newspaper article -- Tuesday, 22 July 2003
Reducing crime and violence: education versus harsh penalties
B. Conrich, B. Potter, J. Robinson, writers from Cook Islands and Niue -- Tuesday, 5 August 2003
Does television impact youth violence?
G. Marfleet and a writer from Seychelles -- Tuesday, 2 September 2003
The power of communication: listening to young people
J. Maneniaru, M. Masayos, A. Perrine, P. William -- Tuesday, 19 August 2003
Breaking the cycle of crime and violence
Brian Mommsen -- Tuesday, 16 September 2003

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