Jamaica Observer:- THE Opposition yesterday poured cold water on National Security Minister Robert Montague’s announcement that he is contemplating the resumption of hanging in Jamaica, arguing that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent to murder and is not the solution the country’s nagging problem of violent crime.
According to Opposition spokesman on justice and governance, Senator Mark Golding, countries in the world that have abolished the death penalty generally remain the safest, with the least number of murders.
“Those states in the United States which retain and apply the death penalty (for example Texas) are not the states which enjoy the lowest murder rates in the US. The active use of the death penalty in Jamaica did not prevent the carnage of murders in 1980,” Golding said.
Noting that it is not necessary for the resumption of hanging at this time, he said that murders have declined by 40 per cent since the extradition of Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke in 2010, during an era where the death penalty was not a factor.
He said that the Opposition is of the view that the death penalty cannot be the solution to Jamaica’s problem of violent crime.
“Violent crime in Jamaica has several root causes, and curbing it requires solutions that address those causes,” he said.
Golding suggested that Jamaica needs, among other things, growth with equity that creates good-quality employment opportunities for our people, so that they aren’t drawn towards criminal organisations and violent crime.
He added that the modernisation and strengthening of the justice system need to be continued, and the implementation of the Justice Reform Programme should not be allowed to lose momentum.
“I do not regard minister Montague’s announcement, that the Government is seeking “to determine if there are any legal impediments for the resumption of hanging in Jamaica”, as a serious policy initiative that will be implemented. The Government can’t hang more people; nor, as a practical matter, can Parliament. Only the courts can make that happen, and the courts are governed by the rule of law and, in particular, the human rights guarantees in our Constitution,” Golding said.
In addition, he said that the reactivation of the death penalty after 28 years would bring condemnation and adverse criticism on Jamaica from international development partners that are not in support of capital punishment.
Last week, Montague said Government remains committed to mobilising all the resources at its disposal to wage a “relentless war” against criminal elements “intent on destroying our nation”. To this end, he said the Administration is currently exploring the possible resumption of hanging.
Noting that it forms part of the crime-prevention strategies aimed at creating safer communities by tackling “lawless elements”, Montague said his state minister, Pearnel Charles Jr, has been asked to consult with several stakeholders, including the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General’s Office, to determine if there are any “legal impediments” to be addressed.
He said the ministry’s overall approach to creating safer communities is based on five key pillars of crime prevention: social development, situational prevention, effective policing, swift and sure justice processes, and reducing re-offending.