The Research: Caribbean-wide

There is some research which has attempted to capture public opinion across various Caribbean countries.

Regarding support for punitive or progressive crime policies throughout the Caribbean, Maguire and Johnson (2015) found that respondents in seven Caribbean nations (1595 in Trinidad and Tobago, and 1512 in Barbados) supported both progressive and more punitive criminal justice policies.

Respondents expressed overwhelming support for progressive policies such as education, job creation and poverty reduction.

However, alongside these attitudes, there was also support for more punitive responses to crime; across the seven countries a total of 83.2% believed that criminals should be punished more harshly. This measure was highest in Trinidad and Tobago where the result was 89.8%. Across the seven Caribbean countries, a total of 63.5% respondents supported the death penalty, but this too varied according to country.

The individual scores of countries on the Likert scale (a scale of 1 to 5) demonstrated that Trinidad and Tobago exhibited some of the highest punitivism scores, while Barbados demonstrated some of the lowest. The salience of crime as an issue varied according to country, from the high crime countries of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, to the lower crime nation of Barbados.

The below mean scores for two statements demonstrate the variation in response according to country.

Statement:

‘Criminals should be punished more harshly’

Antigua & Barbuda Barbados Guyana Jamaica St Lucia Suriname Trinidad & Tobago
4.06 3.93 4.07 4.33 4.41 4.09 4.38

 

Statement:

‘I support the death penalty’

Antigua & Barbuda Barbados Guyana Jamaica St Lucia Suriname Trinidad & Tobago
3.67 3.73 3.59 3.82 4.16 2.84 4.02

(see Maguire and Johnson, 2015, for a fuller discussion).

These measures tend to show that Trinidad and Tobago had scores on the more punitive end of the scale, while Barbados was less punitive.

Maguire and Johnson’s (2015) research was drawn from data from the United Nations Development Programme survey of 2010 in the Caribbean (UNDP, 2012). This research surveyed on attitudes to human development and citizen security in these seven Caribbean nations.

The results of this research demonstrated the continued prevalence of problems borne out of the post-colonial nature of these countries, most of which have been independent for little over 50 years. Related to this post-colonial obstacle, the survey found that 49.6% believed that the criminal justice system in their country was corrupt. As with views on criminal justice policies, this measure also varied considerably by country; from the low of 33.8% in Barbados, to the high of 69.8% in Trinidad and Tobago. The Report concluded that there was a ‘crisis of legitimacy’ for criminal justice systems in many Caribbean countries.

Regarding fear of crime, the highest measures were recorded in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, and the lowest measure was found in Barbados.

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