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News > Jamaica

Jamaica Imprisons 906 in 2 Months to Quell Violence to No Avail

  • Over 40 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants or 1,287 murders were registered last year.

    Over 40 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants or 1,287 murders were registered last year. | Photo: Reuters

Published 19 July 2019

Despite the over 900 arrests with the intent to reduce the nation's growing homicide rate, only two individuals were actually convicted.

Jamaican authorities have made 906 arrests since a state of emergency was announced two months ago, but it’s done little to reduce the amount of violence across the Caribbean island, the Jamaican Constabulary Force said Friday.

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As of April 30, the state emergency temporarily deployed army personnel and granted permission to stop, search and arrest without warrant in three parishes.

However, the militarization and 'crackdown' on civilians fell short of government expectations when data gathered from various police departments subject to the emergency showed that authorities later released 811 of the over 900 individuals arrested. 

Final processing lead to the capture of only 17 people who had committed some type of infraction that warranted being charged. Of them, two alleged gang members prosecuted.

The original idea was to reduce the nation’s soaring homicide rate which registered 47 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants or 1,287 murders last year. According to the island’s prime minister, Andrew Holness, 70 percent of these crimes are gang-related. The minister said the country has experienced a drop in homicide percentages since the April state of emergency, but that this policy is not sustainable.

“The truth is that the level of crime is above the capacity of law enforcement to [effectively] respond. There have been 11,000 murders in the last eight years, and we do not have enough investigators,” Holness announced. Jamaica has one of the world's highest crimes rates in the world and its murder rate is on par with Honduras. Most murders in Jamaica aren't brought to justice.

The statistics places Jamaica nearly three times higher than the regional average in both Latin America and Caribbean.

In an interview with InSight Crime, Mark Shields, Jamaica’s ex-deputy police commissioner, said, “SOEs [states of emergency] will fail if long-term plans are not implemented to improve education, employment and effective enforcement of the law supported by an efficient justice system.”

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