Somewhere inside our “Royal Jail'' there are two, maybe three proverbial black or brown boys, sitting, lying, waiting for their next bowl of soup, bread and cheese, or whatever they feed inmates in our so-called Hangman's Row. They are, if the law got it right, likely to be brutal, savage, fascist, hideous crooks, such as any who ever walked the face of the earth. Or maybe they are not. Maybe they have evolved and changed. Maybe they have learnt repentance. Whatever.
What materially matters is that they are safely ensconced behind those walls. They pose no real threat to any of us. They are not likely to ever be free to walk, talk, ride amongst us again. Good riddance, we say. Let the priests, pundits, imams, their brothers, sisters, lawyers visit them.
Somewhere on the outside, there is a man, or five, six, maybe 20 of them operating behind some walled mansion, living right next to us, ordering hits. Ordering kills. Ordering cocaine and other narcotics to come in, move out; connecting with our strategically placed English-speaking island to the Spanish mainland, to the English mainland to the North. He too, and his “pardners”, are brutal, sinister, fascist, hideous savages!
Somewhere to the South or to the West, there are men, looking just like you, who will be coming in full moon or in the dark, bringing inside the hold of their boats illicit human and animal cargo, guns, ammunition, narcotics. They are not the real crooks, they would say. It is that fellah, that big man, in the self same Royal Jail who is the crook; the Mafia man right in there, in the general prison population, controlling business from his cell, sending messages and orders.
Somewhere in the bureaucracy, the technocracy, the departments of the State, sit some permanent crooks. They sit like iguanas under air-conditioned rocks, with their tongues waiting to lash out, gobble up well-meaning political leaders. The crooks in the “Yes Minister” offices. Dealing and wheeling behind the scenes with the general public, with this or that one vying for an end, for the half a hog, for the whole hog of the contract. Like vipers they strike again and again against the economy, the Treasury, the public interest; against process, rule, probity and just good old, common and scientific sense.
And somewhere in the hallowed chambers of Parliament! A revolving door of other crooks. Dusting the gold dust off contracts. Making promises to friends, financiers, party supporters.
Somewhere amongst us there are extortionists and body trappers, kidnappers and gunrunners, slayers and assassins. Guns embolden them. They can come into your little corner shop, parlour, pub, slap you, shove you off your stool, because they have guns, because they know they can, because they know they can walk off in broad daylight, or ride off in the dark, with perfect impunity. They make their living from terror. Terrorising businesses, women, perhaps members of the legal and judicial fraternity, the good members of the Police Service. All of us at their mercy. Lives for ransom.
Our black and brown boys in Hangman's Row pose no material threat to anyone. You can go in there meet the five or six souls, insult them, ring their ears, kick their shins, abuse their mothers and sons, what can they do? Get vex? Curse back? They are trapped there. They pose no meaningful or existential threat to anyone. Why not leave them to talk to their priests, pundits, imams, their Maker? What real threat do they pose to national security?
To hang the one, or three Death Row inmates at this time is an exercise in meaninglessness. Hanging these men would bring no measurable, marginal improvement to our critical crime situation. It will stain the hand of the State which now, more than ever, must take the high moral and ethical line. If the crook is the devil, we must all strive to be saints. Nothing expunges demons so much as the work of good women and men. Hauling these brown and black boys one cold morning, taking them to the gallows to hang, is not going to cut it. It is at best an act of haste; at worst, an act of pure politics meant to give palliative to public rage. I beg you to stop and desist.
Let us not sacrifice the crooks in Death Row on the altar of political expedience. The real crooks threatening our very lives and livelihood are on the outside, raging and roaring strong, making our living days and nights a misery.
A determined, gutsy, constructive engagement with the public, the police and general security services, using science, forensics, technology, good structure and communications, can nab, one by one, case by case, those savages on the outside. The police and the public know who they are. Let us focus on the ones that present the real threat to lives, good order and our very sanity.