As part of the Government's strategy to curb violent crime in Trinidad and Tobago, we have lately witnessed senior politicians arguing in favour of the death penalty. Invoking the shameful colonial legacy of public portrayals of state violence, Minister Herbert Volney even proposes to "Hang Them in the Square" (Express, September 2, 2010).
Resorting to populist motions and disregarding factual evidence on the effects of capital punishment is lamentable, as numerous studies have shown that the death penalty does not deter crime (see, for example, Donohue & Wolfers 2006 for a review of recent literature).
Worst still, by offering seemingly quick fixes to the crime problem, the Government can conveniently leave structural causes of crime unattended. Increasing crime rates result from social and economic inequality, and homicide rates are higher in the most unequal societies (e.g. Demombynes & Özler 2004; Jacobs & Richardson 2008; Stolzenberg, Eitle & D'Alessio 2006).
The widening gap between the haves and the have-nots in today's Trinidad and Tobago is a travesty. Building a more equal society in which the State guarantees all of its citizens access to quality education, health care, housing and adequate, dignified employment takes a lot more work, resources and political will than resuming hanging.
It is high time to remove the death penalty statutes from the law books of Trinidad and Tobago and to focus on sustainable strategies towards a safe, economically just society.