CSJP—a Unique Anti-Crime and Violence Programme Being Rolled Out
Countries all over the world have been witnessing a rise in crime and violence in many forms. The Bahamas is not exempt. While the Family Islands are low-crime areas, the densely populated island of New Providence has been the focal point for antisocial behaviour. Now, the Bahamas Government is beginning the roll out a unique, citizen-driven programme to help vulnerable communities self-heal in partnership with the Police and various civic groups and educational institutions. Work began on the project in 2017.
“The operations command points of the new The Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP) will be ultramodern community complexes in the most vulnerable areas initially, the first of which, the Big Pond Centre will be officially opened on November 15. These will be focal points for community gathering, discussion, strategising, mentoring, community service programmes and other volunteer activities, school-to-work transition assistance, and the sharing of parenting skills. Most important, the centres will offer arts, recreation and nature appreciation activities,” says CSJP Project Manager, Dr. Dorcas Cox.
The driving force behind the new initiative is the need to address the fact that Bahamians feel insecure in their several environments—at home, on the job, in business places and on the streets, which reduces productivity and overall quality of life. CSJP is a multifaceted crime and violence prevention programme, which aims to break down negative social and economic barriers in the most vulnerable communities and empower citizens to contribute to sustainable solutions.
Resting on four main components, the general objective of CSJP Bahamas is to contribute to the reduction in Crime and Violence in The Bahamas. The specific objectives are to: (i) improve behaviours for non-violent conflict resolution in New Providence; (ii) increase employability and employment of the priority youth population in New Providence; (iii) strengthen institutional capabilities of justice services; and (iv) reduce the recidivism rate among persons within the prison system. Essential support for the CSJP will be public awareness and community mobilisation campaigns targeting influencers such as parents, educators and community leaders.
Planned for the long term, the CSJP initiative is funded by the Bahamas Government, through the Ministry of National Security, and a $20 million loan from IDB and is based on informed, beneficial citizen action in partnership with the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Department of Rehabilitative Welfare Services and various training and educational institutions and civic groups.
Statistics show that young people from mid-teens to late twenties are heavily represented as victims and perpetrators of crime and violence. As the IDB loan document notes, the pattern of socially and economically destructive behaviour is frequently determined by family dynamics, notions of gender roles and violent habits formed at schools.
Among the major contributing factors are high youth unemployment and discouragement rates in New Providence and Grand Bahama. Research among potential employers reveal that inadequate levels of skill sets critical to meeting the demands of the labour market, notably specific-job technical skills, behavioural skills and basic literacy and numeracy skills prove frequently to be a barrier to employment.
Unemployment or underemployment tends to increase a person’s risk of becoming involved in criminal and violent activities.
In October, as a first phase in addressing youth skill development, the Ministry of National Security signed a contract with the National Training Agency to conduct a job skills program that will provide training for hundreds of young, unemployed Bahamians.
Another objective of CSJP is to re-energise informal community support, which formerly functioned to monitor behaviour and enhance skill-building and social and moral development, but declined noticeably in recent years.
Also targeted for major improvements are two severely challenged areas of intervention. The criminal justice system is inadequately provisioned in terms of technology and a dedicated Public Defender Programme, leading to inefficiencies and lowered effectiveness. At the same time, the rehabilitation services provided for offenders, as noted by the IDB loan document, “do not take specific treatment needs into account, in particular psychological assistance, socio skills training, conflict resolution skills, remedial education and job skills training.”
Consequently, CSJP is heavily focused on helping the offending and vulnerable sector of the population avoid choices and behaviours that limit their potential for achieving social equity and worthwhile economic opportunities. There is a heavy focus on developing a range of competencies, especially emotional, social and jobs skills, entrepreneurship training, and more positive value systems. An equally important intervention strand involves providing conflict resolution, family life and parenting skills and re-energizing the traditional neighbourhood watch and support system.
The enthusiasm for the Bahamas CSJP initiative finds substantial support in the fact that a CSJP programme running in Jamaica for a number of years has been recording significant successes; so much so, that country has recently won a new IDB loan to continue the work.