Commentary Jamaica Magazine

No to More Prisons, and Yes to More Education & Job Creation in Jamaica

Written by Karl Mitchell

Recently, the Jamaica Observer published an article: “Build new prisons to fight crime, says Wayne Chen” ( Mr. Wayne Chen’s proposal).  Immediately, I was compelled to respond to said article.

I don’t think the US model is the best model for fighting/reducing crimes.  Is Mr. Chen going to promote private (for profit) penitentiaries, too, for Jamaica?  Yes, he’s pushing for privatization of prisons.  I recommend that Mr. Chen do further research – researching other countries’ models (including those with a homogeneous culture/society); unless, of course, his findings are solely motivated by profits/personal gain versus the public good (Jamaica’s).

Mr. Chen’s ideas could easily lead to abuses such as the “jailing kids for cash” scandal that took place in Pennsylvania years ago.

We need to tackle the problem at its root, in part, the politics (or politricks).  If not, Jamaica will end up becoming an island prison due to profitable prison expansions buoyed by foreign investments, of course.  We have to find a way to pay (starting with the usurious interest rate) for the loans borrowed from IMF and the World Bank, don’t we?

And, of course, Mr. Chen could research on how to create more jobs for the educated jobless youth of Jamaica.  Jamaica needs more Penn States (plus job creation) than state pens. The US model is a fiscal failure since it takes more money to finance a prisoner than it would take to educate said prisoner at Harvard ( a scholarly/public policy thesis on education vs. incarceration – liberal source).

Jamaica – my Jamaica – the land of my birth deserves better than Mr. Chen’s half-baked ideas; ideas floating around in New York and California by the growing private corrections business interest group (see Classrooms or Prison Cells? – similar to the above thesis but with less scholarly gravitas and How The Recession Hurts Private Prisons – discussing the growing influence and lobby of the private corrections business).  If I’m not mistaken, last February, Mr. Chen was invited to one of these conferences held in Los Angeles, California.

Moreover, according to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, “poverty is the mother of crime.” Therefore, let’s tackle the mother before tackling the child. If not, the mother will only produce another child and another child and another child. In other words, you tackle the mother with education and job creation, instead of tackling the child with incarceration (only).

Remember, a for profit prison system needs a steady stream of prisoners (year after year) to be successful and profitable for its shareholders. For the public good (Jamaica’s good), we don’t need a successful for profit corrections system with a very bright future – not in my Jamaica – the land of my birth.

About the author

Karl Mitchell