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Interrupter needed to break cycle of violence

Dear Sir,

The Leader of the Opposition, Cole Simons, gave a Reply to the Throne Speech last week and he gave stark warnings about the rising level of youth violence and gun crime occurring on the island. He called upon the Premier to increase resources for law enforcement, frontline health workers and other uniformed services.

Mr Simons warned: “We must also stop living and believing that we live in a dreamland when it comes to youth and gang crime.”

The gang-crime issue in Bermuda is serious and ongoing, and we know that most often, it is really a symptom of the breakdown of the family unit in our community. Long-term studies are showing that family disorganisation, broken homes, alcohol/drug abuse, family violence, neglect, and lack of adult and parental role models all contribute significantly to the rise in gang culture.

I have written about this before, but I firmly believe that we are in need of a cultural shift when it comes to the importance of and the way we “value” the family structure.

Young people — especially young women — need to have a clear understanding of the importance of having stability in their chosen relationship and, most critically, make a commitment to that relationship before deciding to have a child. Young boys need positive male role models present in the family; they are far more likely to present antisocial behaviour when fathers are absent.

Marriage seems to have gone out of “vogue” nowadays and it is often missing from the equation when a child comes into the world. No one can argue that there are far better individual outcomes for our society when:

1, We take time to develop the relationship with a partner

2, Make the promise/commitment to marriage

3, Plan for the future of the family

While the Bermuda Police Service come under the Governor’s responsibilities, there is nothing stopping the Premier from having an “audience” with the Governor, expressing his concern and a request for stepping up crime-prevention measures. I hope we will see him deliver a strong message directly to the community, regarding a zero tolerance for antisocial behaviour and the importance of parental responsibilities.

I would also call for the Premier to have some tough and intelligent engagement, specifically on the root causes of gang violence and put forward some positive role models who are present within our community. I would like to hear some real alternatives for troubled young people; alternatives that lead to long-term, co-ordinated, sustainable answers to the gang issue and associated criminal activity.

There are overseas institutions with proven success rates for young people who are “on the edge” and these should be looked at with a view to having similar applications here in Bermuda. In the United States, AMI Kids, a non-profit, is one such facility that offers various programmes to suit individual needs. They work in partnership with youth agencies, local communities and families. They offer a unique combination of education, behaviour modification and treatment in a family atmosphere with caring staff to help children with a troubled past turn their lives around to become productive citizens. They offer both residential and day programmes. Their mission statement is: “Separating a troubled past from a bright future.”

While we already have many adults — mostly men — who have been in and out of the prison system for years, we also have young people right now with troubled pasts who are likely to enter the prison system for the first time. This is when there needs to be a “Come to Jesus” moment. Let's call it the cycle interrupter. A moment that looks like this: when a young person whose actions have resulted in their initial or repeated presence before the courts, the judge can make a determination and say: “You have two choices: 1, You can go to jail and thus acquire a criminal record,; or 2, You have a chance to get your life back by pledging to enter a safety net/social facility, which will guide and help you develop into a responsible and productive citizen.”

The cycle needs to be interrupted, now. Generationally, we are in way too deep already and whatever we are doing now isn’t working.

BEVERLEY CONNELL

Pembroke

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Published November 16, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated November 15, 2021 at 5:05 pm)

Interrupter needed to break cycle of violence

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