Violence breeds violence

| 09/03/2011

It was no surprise that the news story about Franz Manderson’s position on the prison system received a significant number of comments expressing the usual call for more punishment and more violence. And while I am no longer surprised by the common belief that more violence is somehow the solution for reducing violence, I am continuously puzzled by it. After all, how can more violence equal less violence?

It’s a question that I don’t believe the people who advocate heavy-handed punishments — from those that believe in spanking children to supporters of capital punishment — ever really think about. I would confidently guess that most, if not all, of the inmates at Northward prison serving sentences or remanded for violent crime were exposed to violence throughout their lives and, guess what, it hasn’t “cured” them. Every law abiding citizen who says the beatings they received as children did them good or at least no harm are kidding themselves.

The reason why they are not in prison is likely because there were many other things in their lives that countered the violence, such as a constant source of love and support from the family or another important adult figure that made them feel safe, secure and valuable. Other lessons that negated violence were the ones which really worked and shaped them into decent people. Most law abiding individuals will find that the real reason for their complianceand orderly behaviour is in spite of the violence they may have encountered, certainly not because of it.

As Chief Officer Franz Manderson revealed when he spoke with CNS, there is no prison in the world where more physical punishment, violence or discomfort will lead to compliant law abiding inmates. He used the perfect illustration when he said, “If you lock a dog in a cage, beat it and starve it, would you really expect it to lick your face when you open the cage door?”

Violence leads to more violence, it does not lead to less – ever.

It may contain it for a period but it will always be there simmering under the surface waiting for an opportunity for revenge. If as a child you learn that your parents or others achieve power and control of you or compliance from you through violence then you in turn will learn to use it on others you want to control or comply with your wishes.

This is not deep psychologically, complicated stuff. The research to prove it is there by the truck load but for some reason society doesn’t want to listen because it doesn’t like the solution which is about treating violence with boundaries, structure and even kindness.

How can we be nice to someone who did something wicked is always the problem that people struggle with and it’s no surprise given that it is the fundamental struggle within Christian/Judeo culture. What do we really believe in, after all, an eye for an eye or turn the other cheek?

What society needs to consider are the reasons why most people don’t commit violent crime and in particular to look more closely at those that have grown up without violence and find out why they are happy, functioning human beings, having never been punished physically.

Society has asked the wrong questions about punishment and constantly focuses on revenge and retaliation instead of education and reform.

Some of the CNS bloggers this week seemed to think that offering inmates an opportunity to be educated while they were in the prison system was an outrage. Personally, I think it is an outrage that they are not given every possible opportunity to learn and therefore change.

It is a myth that prison is easy or that inmates in Northward are all living in the lap of luxury. No amount of TV time, ganja arriving stuffed up chickens or cell phones flung over the wall, can make up for the loss of freedom. Most people who say prison is easy have never been in one and have no concept of life behind bars. The loss of privacy, the loss of choice about eventhe simplest things and the monotony alone cannot ever be seen as anything but punishment.

Right now HMP Northward is overcrowded and full of violent young men coiled like springs waiting for an opportunity to release their emotions the only way they know how – through violence. As Manderson said, the guards are doing a great job at containing that violence and they do it without using any violence themselves.

For many of the young men, however, the violence, abuse and neglect they have suffered so far throughout their lives has probably damaged them beyond repair and they may end up in prison for very long periods because they must be separated from society, to protect the rest of us, if they cannot address their violent behaviour.

However, with the introduction of the bill of rights next year the court systems will be forced to introduce a tariff system for life sentences, meaning that even some of the most violent offenders will eventually be returned to the community.

I cannot under any circumstance see how it is that society could possible think that returning a man who had been behind bars for 30 years that had experienced only more violence, cruelty and discomfort, had not had the chance to be educated, to face his behaviour or to learn a different way to live could come back to the community having learned his lesson about violent crime and become an orderly, law abiding citizen.

Prison works in very few cases and cruel prisons work even less.

Society must address violence much, much earlier in the life cycle of its people. We must strive to eliminate all kinds of abuse and violence from our communities and find ways of creating consequences for those who break the rules that are constructive. From dealing with naughty children to grown men, more violence cannot break the cycle of violence. The popular sentiment that calls for more cruelty and revenge will never put a stop to violent crime.

Manderson is well aware that public opinion is going to be against him as he tries to make the prison system one that deals with addressing criminal behaviour rather than just punishing it, creating a system that strives to make changes rather than fuelling the violent status quo, but I, for one, wish him well as I believe a future with less violence, and not more, depends on it.

Read ‘Tough prisons don’t work’

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  1. Anthony Montana says:

    I agree that you cannot treat violent criminals with violence. that is all they know. But I do believe that the occassional criminal, as Cayman seems to have found a lot more of, can be swayed from committing crimes if there is a more serious deterent.

    At the moment, going to “Hotel Northward” and having 3 square meals a day provided, (plus drugs and sex as we saw from the prison farm trial) just does not work!

  2. Just Commentin' says:

    Generalisations peeve the hell out of me!

    Case in point: "Violence leads to more violence, it does not lead to less – ever."

    Not ever??

    Gee. Could have fooled moi. My story is as old as humanity itself and is one with which I am certain many a person reading this can identify:

    As a school child in the early years of my primary education, I was harassed, threatened and sometimes even assaulted by a bully. I honestly tried education and reform. I let him know that I would be happier if he would not continually throw me down to the ground in front of my friends and walk away laughing. I tried sharing my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with him. Lotta good that did. It just instilled in him a hunger for the contents of my lunch bag. In spite of my best efforts at education and reform, the bully remained on station daily, leaning against the light pole waiting for me to arrive. He would push me to the ground and take my sandwich and milk. He got the P&B and I had an empty stomach at lunch. Not good.

    I had exhausted all my non-violent options. Then I stumbled upon a brilliant solution: At the end of my rope one day, I busted he clat one good one! He went down. He stumbled to his feet and saw me readying another punch, murder in my eye. He ran away with blood streaming from his face. My trek to and from school were violence free from that day onward and my lunch times were spent happily gobbling down my mother’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The bully would probably buy Wendy’s generalisation, he should have ended his violent inclinations at least one day earlier than he did. But as for me, I know better. On several occasions even in my adult life, retaliation and violence (when all else failed) made my life far more peaceful.

    It was rumoured that the head of one the schools I attended had a particularly vile, painful paddle. Believe me when I say it was a very effective deterrent.

    As for me, countries that cane offenders absolutely do deter me from committing any crimes in that country. Hell, I won’t even visit a country that uses the cane much less consider spraying graffiti or engaging in public drunkenness there.

    Violence can lessen crime. Capital punishment kinda thins the herd of murderers and the more vicious criminals; as a bonus it eliminates prison crowding. Chopping off a hand eliminates a pickpocket’s effectiveness to after two such sentences. Nice!

  3. Dred says:

    Personally I believe Wendy missed the whole point. Plus I believe her to be wrong.

    The missed point….

    A prison is not only a place to serve out a punishment set down by a legal system. It serves two purposes. It also acts as a deterrence to those who sit on the edge wondering can I deal with what happens if or when I am caught.

    People who commit crime today enjoy far too many luxuries in prison. In fact it might be argued that many who go to prison can not afford the same lifestyle outside of prison that they do inside.

    Tell me something. If you do not fear the punishment foir doing something and the reward is something that is highly desireable would you not be inclined to follow through with the action? This is how the average criminal thinks. He/she looks at risk/reward. And if he’she determines the the risk or not severe then there is a good chance they will commit the crime.

    I know I have never said beat them or express any violence on them. I only said they should not be enjoying their stay. They should be put to work either from an economical standpoint for the prison or to gain some personal knowledge. They amenities should be scaled down drastically because everything today is about cost and if they are enjoying wonderful meals and AC and TV and what have you they this is a BIG problem.

    I also believe Wendy is wrong….

    When I got beat as a child I was taught what would happen when I did something wrong again. It made me know the consequences of my actions. The consequences kept me from my mischivious deeds.

    I’m not going to sit here and say it works for everyone because some people seem to like pain. Some beg for it. But I would say most if they felt the belt did not want to feel it again and did what they could to avoid it.

    I believe Wendy has gotten herself all caught up in this NEW WAY style of “time out” and “stand in corner” and “No TV for you” and let’s be honest. If getting beat would not straighten you out do you really think for a second that “:time out” will have any affect? Really now.

    Our failure is realising that MOST OF TODAYS PROBLEM KIDS DO NOT RESPOND TO WORDS. They simply don’t. I’m not saying all but I am saying most.

    We are trying to be too politically correct. Our forefathers had this right and today we are paying for taking a different path.

  4. Joseph Yates says:

    I agree with Franz.

    Crime and Criminals

    The meeting betwix the Politians and commissioner heard many people saying they want a much more harsh prison and to treat prisoners more like prisoners, well am not saying a prisoner should not be treated like one, but we have to remember he/she is still human that did something bad that many humans are capable of doing, so while they are in prison they must be treated as humans.

    I suggest a rehab prison where they are given a chance to learn a trade or qualified to do a job that a WP holder has, and when they finish their sentence a job would already be appointed for them, they will be subjected to strict monitoring and will have to continue to work the job appointed to them, if they quit there will be ramifications (we can come up with ideas of what the ramifications will be)

    My point here is: everybody wants harsh conditions for those who go to prison for very serious crimes am not saying no to that, but if we treat them as if they are not humans while in prison that will only make them worse, and when released they may treat others the way they were treated, we need prisoners to come out better not worse, who is going to help them when they come out much worse than when they went in? we will only be doing the same as we been doing all along sending them to prison until their release and then after being released they have no place in our workforce and mainstream society so what will there choice be?

    Reality check: for decades now we sent or youth and adults to prison for various offenses some very petty like smoking herb, and first time non violent offenses, sending them to prison was the answer for decades far as the law was concern, now decades later we have more criminals from those same prisoners, all because they were sent to prison to be released after their sentence, only to come back into a society that looked at them as a prisoner, they could not get a job after they were released, so they were still prisoners in the street, so back to crime was their retreat.

    I agree not all prisoners can be recycled but those that can be, we have to recycle them back into our workforce. Do we want to build more or another (regional prison) to create more criminals? have we not learned that we will only be repeating the same process fore mentioned creating more criminals, criminals need to be recycled to crimeless, then we will see progress, and have less criminals and crime.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Go figure: those opposing certain types of  birth control and all abortion due to the |"sanctity of life" are almost always in favour of capital punishment.  

    • Anonymous says:

      It astonishes me that something as grisly and obscene as the death penalty has such support from people who declare that they are “born again Christians”. So much for “Gentle Jesus”. Let them relocate to Iran!

      • Anonymous says:

        There is a vast difference between the murder of innocents and the punishment of criminals. You have little understanding of Jesus if you think he was all gentle. Read the gospels and the book of Revelation. Paradoxically the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world is also the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

      • 10 cents says:

        I doubt that the majority of death penalty supporters are born again christians. A lot of todays best christians were yesterdays worst criminals. The death penalty has been abolished here a long time ago, and if there were any support for it, you would have seen a march, or protest, or a petition!

        Please stop bashing Christianity and religion for your own benefit.

  6. Slowpoke says:

    Did anyone else read the study about the effect of corporal punishment on children’s IQ, that was published last year?

    Are we Caymanians all so blessed with superior intelligence, that we can easily forgo a few IQ points to others? 

  7. Caymanian First says:

    The main way to reduce crime is for there to be a high probability of the offenders getting caught and facing a sentence that is a true deterent to them.

    Right now the RCIP has a very low rate of solving robberies and other serious/violent crime. Even when such crimes are solved the sentence is often not a deterrent.

    Perhaps tough prisons may not be the answer. sometimes naming and shaming works just as well such as a sex offenders registry or visible community service. For example, do we really have to pay people to clean the roadside when we have so many prisoners who could benefit the country by being required to clean the road as community service as a part of their sentence?

    • Concerned Caymanian says:

      Don’t forget that supervised work for prisoners was tried under the previous Prison director, until Sabrina was killed.  Then everyone in favour of working the prisoners cried out about the horrible program; how we must lock them up and throw away the key, etc.  Some people are never happy!

      • Anonymous says:

        Obviously the person/persons responsible for Sabrina’s murder were not supervised or at least not adequately supervised and therein lies another big problem…incompetence and or indifference on the part of the supervisor on duty.

      • Anonymous says:

        Lets get real here, the prisoners weren’t being supervised

    • Anonymous says:

      Even when they are caught they get a mere slap on the wrist. So you can’t blame everything on RCIP

    • Anonymous says:

      It is our communities that support and enable our worrisome criminal patterns. The RCIPS often get the finger, but they are merely a response squad for the moral failings we nurture through apathy. 

  8. Lachlan MacTavish says:

     Great viewpoint Wendy. Tougher prison and more violent prison officers is not the answer. A well run, efficient, modern prison that educates,works, half way houses and counsels the inmates will help to curb crime in Cayman.

    On the flip side I completely understand some comments or posts from CNS readers. They are striking out because they are extremely frustrated with the horrible crime in their country.

    The blame for crime lies at the feet of Mr. Bush and his inability to understand and address the crime issue in Cayman. Crime will continue to grow with Mr. Bush at the helm of the Government.


  9. Anonymous says:

    Peace/The Order of Law is maintained though the continual threat of overwhelming use of force.

    Period.  End of Story.  A FACT of life, irrespective of country.

    The removal and lessening of this treat, HAS,WILL and CONTINUE to erode law enforcement and its ability to thwart and reduce crime.  in fact, as we have all seen now, it will actually only encourage criminals to continue and ramp up their efforts.  WHY?  Because it PAYS OFF and the CONSEQUENCES ARE MINIMAL to the CRIMINAL.  This ought to be common sense, but I guess its evading too many at this point.

    This notion that’s going around that the prisons shouldn’t be tough is absolute naiveness and utter foolishness.  JUST BECAUSE YOU AND I see the current prison system as unpleasant, a removal of freedom and something to be feared…… DOESN’T MEAN THE REPEAT CRIMINALS SEE IT THAT WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!  OBVIOUSLY THEY DON’T!!!!  OBVIOUSLY GOING TO JAIL is NOT something THEY FEAR!!!

    Its amazing to see just how much void of _basic common sense_ is being spread and perpetrated via the talk shows, our representative and even law officials.

    This doesn’t mean that the threat is necessary for everyone, just the criminals who rather steal from others rather than earn, or cause harm to another because they have no respect for others and themselves.

    Those people, NEED, SHOULD AND ARE SUPPOSED TO live in continual fear that harm will come to them as long as they remain with that mindset and life style.

    When you go to court and they sentence a CRIMINAL, its intended to be PUNISHMENT!   What is this load of crap that punishment doesn’t work????

    My God…



    • Anonymous9 says:

      There are hellish prisons all over the world that are still FULL of people.

      Criminals do not commit a crime thinking they will be caught and punished. Duh!

      • Anonymous says:

        That’s correct because there are those whom you have no choice but to incarcerate and will not obey by the law by any means which leave you no choice but to incarcerate forever.  There IS NO rehabilitation for some people!  This notion that everyone can be rehabilitated is again a load of crap.   Some won’t and refuse to, until perhaps they have been broken and even then its questionable.  for those people, there IS ONLY punishment for the crime.  And some crime are worthy of being harsh and tough, yes that’s right!   "TOUGH". if only to serve as an example as to what happens when you committ heinous crimes.  

        I suggest to you that in the absence of the tough prisons you claim are still full of people, would be even fuller would it be like the Northward prison club retreat.  Perhaps northward isn’t a retreat for people who commit minor and petty crimes and can be rehabilitated, but for those who commit deliberate heinous crimes, murder for self gain/satisfaction, armed robberies, assault etc.. that prison is a COMPLETE joke.  Those criminals need to be sent off to a Cuban prison and removed or minimized as a burden to the tax payer.

        This country of going to hell in a hand basket because of those so very "caring" individuals and their"good intentions".  All feelings, and always so open minded that their brains fell out.


        • Anonymous says:

          It seems to me that “Criminals do not commit a crime thinking they will be caught and punished” was the point of this post. Not the fact that tough prisons are still full.

  10. Anonymous says:

    “How can we be nice to someone who did something wicked is always the problem that people struggle with and it’s no surprise given that it is the fundamental struggle within Christian/Judeo culture. What do we really believe in, after all, an eye for an eye or turn the other cheek?”.

    You are confusing the ethical requirements for the individual Christian in interpersonal relationships and the proper role of the state in administering justice. Obviously if the state is to turn the other cheek it leaves no place for the criminal law or courts at all and lawlessness must ensue. The Apostle Paul has this to say in Romans 13: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, 1 and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God. 13:2 So the person who resists such authority 2 resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will incur judgment 13:3 (for rulers cause no fear for good conduct but for bad). Do you desire not to fear authority? Do good and you will receive its commendation, 13:4 for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be in fear, for it does not bear the sword in vain. It is God’s servant to administer retribution on the wrongdoer. 13:5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath of the authorities 3 but also because of your conscience”.

  11. SMB says:


  12. Anonymous says:

    We spent the last decade psycho-analyzing everything. There are more psychiatrists and therapists and the respective literature availabe than every before. I don’t believe this has done us much good as we clearly have more criminals now than ever.

    My family was vicitim of a crime in the early evening hourse in their own home. It had horrendous conquences for the young children that were present, which is going to impact them for life. I know that the criminal doesn’t give a crap whether the people he victimized are going to suffer, why should we care what happens to those criminals. Why are we always looking out for the offenders and the system doesn’t think twice about the victims????

    We all have the ability to make a choice, no matter if poor or rich. Stop beating the “I had a bad childhood drum”.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Who is talking about violence Wendy? I think the people of the Cayman Islands simply expect that the rules and regulations in place are upheld. The frequent stories about illegal substances making it into the prison is appalling and clearly lacks oversight over what is going on. I believe the general public is tired of the excuses made, such as a road running nearby etc. Nowhere else could you sneak in SIM cards to a prison without serious consequences for everyone involved. Part of any rehabilitation programme would be to teach prisoners that there is a consequence to every action as perhaps this is something they never learned before (which is what landed them in prison to begin with). There has to be a ZERO tolerance approach for rules being ignored – this has nothing to do with violence.

    On the other spectrum, the people who work at the prison are expected to do their job and do it well. What conlcusion is a person to come to when hearing the frequent stories about things going wrong at Northward?

  14. Anonymous says:

    To many the problem with Mr Manderson’s proposals are not in the content but in the contrast with the way he ran immigration.

    Having subjected innocent people who had dealings with his former department to a regime that advocated increasingly tough and arbitrary treatment it seems that he is now, possibly responding to a tide of political correctness, proposing an about face when it comes to the way prison inmates are handled.

    The proposals make a lot of sense – it’s the background of the person making them that is causing concern.

  15. Swine says:

    Do you know if they have a flight school in prison? I would like to be a pilot, what would you recommend to be the best crime that I could commit in order to go about getting in to prison to learn how to fly?

  16. Anonymous says:

    It’s pretty clear that the prison is not working and that the leader can’t think of anything sensible to do about it. So why keep doing the same thing and expect a different result? This is the only prison I can think of where the inmates are an active source of crime in the surrounding community. Just shut the thing and rent cells in Jamaica or Cuba.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Excellent post!

    If society wants to mitigate criminal behaviour, it must start with the education of women about responsible procration.

    Many (not all) of the prison inmates were unwanted babies who were abused in the womb by mothers who continued to take drugs like alcohol, nicotine, ganja, cocaine etc while pregnant. After the babies were born, some babies had prenatally caused disabilities like pre-natal alcohol syndrome, they were problem children in a home that didn’t want them. Is it any wonder that these pre and post natally abused babies with limited mental capacity grow up angry and anti-social?

    Police can do nothing about the root causes of crime which are social and cultural.

    • Anonymous says:

      What? Educate women? What about men? The last time I heard it takes two to make a baby.

      A lot of the problem is also because of these dead-beat fathers who were never held responsible for their actions or lack thereof. Perhaps if someone who sired a child is actually held responsible to provide a decent financial support to raise a child, society as a whole would be better of and some men would think twice before engaging in random sexual activities. Too often they just get to walk away……

    • Anonymous says:

      It is actually both. A woman not to pick a weak/idiot/useless father. A woman to know herself and pick a counterpart which will stay for the long-run and provide. If the woman is fooled regardless, alternatives to having the unwanted babies such as, abortion, the morning after pill etc. Or better yet prevention in the outset. Family planning is provided free at the Cayman Islands hospital, but many do not feel comfortable going there because of the lack of anonymity and the way they are treated by saying the names out loud or giving looks.

      It is not the woman’s fault but currently a man cannot carry a baby. Unfortunately in this society it remains a woman’s responsibility to take care of the child. If the woman is not capable on her own because of the irresponsibility of the father then the child suffers. This is of course not all circumstances, but enough that many hardened prisoners claim bad childhoods.

      Are there places where women can drop the unwanted babies once born? Is there a place to put your child up for adoption? Please enlighten if these services are available.

      There will always be the few that there is no hope no matter what you do, even from a good family. However the ones claiming “I had a bad childhood” well eliminate those by giving the mother the choice…..

      So YES it is a societal/cultural problem