WRONG_WOEID WRONG_WOEID

Save Our Children

Save-our-childrenI was somewhat perplexed while reading the Antigua Daily Observer front page caption (December 3, 2009) “Teen Jailed on Gun, Ammo Charges". The article indicated that the teen’s name was withheld because he was a juvenile, yet the withholding of his name did not relax the punishment. The teen will be behind bars for the next 14 months.

After pondering this matter profoundly, more questions emerged than I was able to find answers for. Where would a 17 year old get hold of an unlicensed .380 Glock gun and nine rounds of ammunition?

The article did not say that the gun was stolen or used in the commission of a crime. Did law enforcement question the teen on how he came by the gun and ammunition? If yes, did additional intelligence yield the source of the gun? Who else will be charged with making this gun available to the teen? We are all assured that guns and bullets do not just drop from the sky in like manner.

I am also very concerned about our prison system, and from all accounts 1735 - Antigua & Barbuda’s lone penal institution - is not a place of rehabilitation for adults. It is certainly not an environment of second chances for a young man or woman, still ripe for exemplary coaching, and still pregnant with so many possibilities for good. As it is set up, it is very likely that prison could become a revolving door for this nameless teen. While I agree with the Chief Magistrate “that law abiding citizens are outraged at the crimes being committed with guns and the proliferation of unlicensed guns” and the need to send a strong message to criminals, I view the sentencing of a juvenile to serve hard time, as a psychological defeat for the nation’s youth.

The very image of this teen in prison highlights all that’s wrong with our justice system. While the chief Magistrate said that he was not inclined to place the teen offender on probation, which is the other option open to him by law, I am convinced that had the laws given magistrates and judges more latitude to offer alternative sentencing, they would go for it. A penal system that is guided by the transformation of young people’s lives should balance punishment with opportunities to make amends.

Options include: court mandating youth offender to programmes, counseling, psychotherapy, working alongside with the Central Board of Health and other activities that offer youth redemptive opportunities to return to mainstream society. Is it time for Antigua & Barbuda to establish a Family Court to address the problems our adolescence and families face. The time is now for our Parliament to review our laws as they pertain to our children and give magistrates and judges more room to offer rehabilitative options other than jail time. 


Some two to three years ago, the government went to Parliament and approved a national youth policy to uplift, improve and create programmes that will benefit our youth. To date, our government has failed to allocate funding for the implementation of our national youth policy.  Our youth and community divisions have not planned nor implemented any national programmes that effect and/or affect the nation’s youth.

Apparently, our youth and community affairs officers are not available after school and evenings for the nation’s youth. This is the time when the young need life enhancing supervision most acutely. It is an established fact that more than 80% of Antigua & Barbuda’s children and teens are latchkey children. I am also calling on the churches and other social groups to institutionalize programmes that are designed to save the nation’s leaders of today and tomorrow.

This young man and others like him might have rebelled against the system as a cry for help, rather than as a sign that they are merely criminally minded. Perhaps it could be said that they did not fail the system; it is the system that fails them. The Ministry of Education must also do right by the nation’s children and teens. It must develop a philosophy of not just educating the mind, but giving birth to a destiny. Without delay, appoint school counselors and offer extended day programmes for those children and teens that are at-risk for hopelessness, homelessness, AIDS/HIV, and other delinquency behaviours.

It is very easy to point out at-risk youngsters who are likely to end up in the juvenile justice system; however, with positive intervention, many can transcend that fate. I am not suggesting that the government should abandon its moral obligation to squelch crime; I am instead saying that it should do so, with rehabilitative emphasis, especially with our children and teens.

The nation’s next prime minister, next hospital administrator, next school principal, next GG, next bishop, next scientist and next world famous author, may be waiting to be plucked from the jaws of 1735. Unless we are willing to adjust our laws for effective change, countless teens will be buried in the penal system without a shred of hope. We should feel a strong commitment not to neglect our teens too quickly. Our young people’s future is worth protecting. Who will save them?
Dr Oswald R Thomas
Oswald R Thomas is a Certified and Registered Clinical Hypnotherapist/Psychotherapist with the American Board of Hypnotherapy, the International Association of Counselors and Therapists, and the International Board of Medical and Dental Association. He is founder of the Thomas Center Human Development, Inc and serves on Community Board #5 in the Bronx, and the Bronx Neighborhood Planning Committee as Chair of the Youth Committee. With a PhD in Psychology, a Master’s in Public Administration, and a Bachelor’s of Professional Studies in Human Services, Dr Thomas is a counseling therapist/Behaviorist, and Professor at Metropolitan College of New York.  Email:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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11 Comments In This Article   

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Conference at MCNY

#11 Member of the Antiguan Association In NY » 2009-12-08 05:06

Dr. Thomas was able to get the 11th floor conference free or all cost and a few prof's for free, when the Antigua and Barbuda Office in NY held a conference for all leaders of the groups in New York. even the president of the college came to do the welcome. is this person sure they are attending the same college. and what dose "Save Our Children" have to do where did Doc when to college.
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Member of the Antiguan Association In NY

Great Prof:

#10 Antiguan Student » 2009-12-08 04:28

I did attend MCNY and Prof: Thomas was my Prof: in the BPS and MPA. he is a good prof> I also intern with him . maybe you need to ask Dean **endale, and the head of Student services, Dona Sosoa. great artcle Doc.
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Antiguan Student

Facts

#9 JDF » 2009-12-08 01:48

To Cr. Thomas:
No disrespect to you, I would like to know where did you attend college in the USA? also if possible could you publish the names of the colleges? I am at Metroplitan College on Canal Street 431 and no one ever heard of you, also I happen to live in the Bronx where Community Five Board #5 is and happen to know all of the members, I do have a list of all the members and your name is not listed there again. Anyone who needs this type of information can tap into NYC.Gov and typw in Community Boards and get the information they need, also with the colleges and get a list of the Faculty Staff.
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JDF

Where does the teen fit into this whole scenario?

#8 Blossom » 2009-12-07 06:38

I can agree that everyone should help in saving our children. Should the children in this case the 'Teen" also help themselves. Didn't that teenager hear about other teens carrying guns and what could happened to them. Couldn't he think for himself and make a conscious effort not to be fould with a gun. Maybe prison is not the place for him but he should of thought about that before and after he had the gun. Let us teach our teens to be responsible too.
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Blossom

Excellent Obervation

#7 Spade A Spade » 2009-12-07 02:30

Dr. Thomas I commend you article and hope that someone in charge would read your article and find something useful to make meaningful change.
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Spade A Spade

Great Observation Doc!

#6 Dr. Isaac Newton » 2009-12-07 00:49

Dr. Thomas,

This article is a recipe for social transformation at the highest level--the nation's prime resources-our young people. Should those in authority take heed, A&B will move from shadow to shade to full sunshine. Your ideas capture our hearts and lift our spirits by offering us sound advice. A surprisingly moving commentary in response to our crime infested madness! Thanks for rendering the pathos grace and the chaos of our disgrace!

Solace,

Dr. Newton
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Dr. Isaac Newton

Something wrong here...

#5 Uni » 2009-12-06 13:21

Although i agree that a teenager should not be placed in jail with hardened criminals, i do not believe that he should be allowed to walk freely on the streets considering the severity that actions can have. He deserves to be held responsible for his actions and as such is the case he should be made to bare the consequences of his actions...
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Uni

#4 Lee Malvo » 2009-12-05 16:57

When I read the headline I immediately thought of the "Save the Children" campaign that the British had to transport their children to the US to escape the Nazi bombing.
That was "Save the children". What you seem to desire is "save the criminals".
Totally different.
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Lee Malvo

The new prison

#3 anonymous » 2009-12-05 16:33

They can house him with Nelson.
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anonymous

#2 MLM » 2009-12-05 15:04

I so agree with this article. What I don't understand, Why are they putting teens in the same facility with hardened criminals? I think they should be in a different environment .
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MLM

On Point

#1 Feeling It » 2009-12-04 23:31

100% agreement.
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Feeling It

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Dr. Oswald R. Thomas

Dr. Oswald R. Thomas Dr. Oswald R. Thomas is a Certified and Registered Clinical Hypnotherapist / Psychotherapist with the American Board of Hypnotherapy, the International Association of Counselors and Therapists, and the International Board of Medical and Dental Association. He is founder of the Thomas Center Human Development, Inc. and serves on Bronx Mental Health Committee, served on Community Board #5 in the Bronx, and the Bronx Neighborhood Planning Committee as Chair of the Youth Committee. With a Ph.D. in Psychology, a Master’s in Public Administration, and a Bachelor’s of Professional Studies in Human Services, Dr. Thomas is a counseling therapist/Behaviorist, and Professor at Metropolitan College of New York.

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