EDITORIAL - After the pardon
Fri, 04/01/2016 - 12:00am
“…Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more. And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.” – Hebrews 10: 18
Despite our best efforts in this space one week ago to apprise the public as to the justiciability of the decisions of the Mercy Committee of the Barbados Privy Council, or their susceptibility to judicial review, we note that the myth still persists in some quarters that these decisions are not to be questioned in any way. Of course, since this process will require expensive court action, it does appear unlikely that it will occur other than through the initiative of attorneys at law, probably remunerated by state funds, and even then to challenge only a negative rather than a positive decision of the Committee.
On the other hand, while they may bewail publicly the remission of sentence of the perpetrator, the families of the victim may be loath to challenge the decision, both out of a cultural reluctance legally to challenge authority and an unwillingness to appear unforgiving and unchristian in their behaviour.
It may be, though, that the convict who has had his sentence remitted is not necessarily guaranteed an untroubled existence after his release from prison. For all its claim of being a Christian society – and we have long held the view that this description speaks more to a mere numerical majority than to the practice of societal faith – many Barbadians appear to lack one of the primary qualities of the Christian ethos; that of forgiveness.
Hence, even after the benevolence of the pardon, the ex-prisoner is likely to encounter problems finding employment, accommodation and engaging in normal social interaction. We have heard the queries during the past week as to the sufficient dissuasiveness of the initial sentence by the courts in the case of one convicted double-murderer rumoured to be due for imminent release. And the publication of an eyewitness recount of the gory details of that incident by another section of the press last weekend would have scarcely have helped matters.
In consequence, the rehabilitation process that had been started in prison is left incomplete by the reluctance of society to re-integrate the individual. Almost inevitably, this is likely to lead to problems of homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse and, regrettably, an incidence of recidivism or re-offending by the former prisoner.
There are, of course, exceptions to this general rule. Most notably, the late Prime Minister, Mr. David Thompson, made no secret of the fact that he had chosen to employ in his home an individual who had served his sentence, and there are other tales of those who have been the beneficiaries of private charity in money or money’s worth. But stigma in Barbados is rarely overt. As a result, there will always be other explanations that do not relate to the fact of the past incarceration for the denial of societal benefits.
It is our considered view that while it may be appropriate for the public to question the views of the Mercy Committee either in fact or in law, should they so choose, then, once the decision has not been overturned, the governing administration and the populace should commence their obligation of refitting the prisoner into society; the second part of his rehabilitation as it were.
There exists a cliché of “thinking outside the box”. Once the sentence of a convicted person has been fairly remitted, we should begin to think outside the cell!