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TCI Cadet Corps, could this become an alternative solution for our troubled youth

#TurksandCaicos, May 8, 2021 – A national voluntary youth organization, sponsored by the ministry of education, with assistance from the Royal Turks and Caicos Police Force.  Their goal is to positively change the lives of young people to lead, inspire and excel.Their mission is to help people develop both personally and physically.

These are some distinct functions of the Cadet programme, all of which are essential in changing the trajectory of young lives. In addition, it can be used as a stepping stone in helping to shape careers for local law enforcement enthusiasts. Can this programme also play a vital role in helping to shape our troubled youth identity and character, if it became a better-funded operation with increased volunteerism?

There are many advantages to joining this Cadet Programme. First of all, it will give our youth a sense of purpose, it teaches self-control, responsibility, and respect for authority.  And as we know, for some obscure reason, to many of our youth today have fallen short in these areas.

As human beings, it’s the qualities of our inherent nature to make every effort to epitomize moral virtue. But in reality, we are all but one thought away from making that regrettable decision.  With such perverse behavior by so many of our youth today, some parents are finding themselves in a precarious position and are grappling for solutions. 
Some of us can attest that regardless of our fortitude and parenting skills, a kid could easily slip away from our control, sometimes ending up in uncompromising situations.

Our court system is becoming over burden with criminal cases, with a high number of  them being the lessor of the offenses.  With no adequate rehabilitation services available, the young and vulnerable persons, who are on the verge of going down the wrong path, those with chronic truancy issues or minor offenses could be prime candidates for this programme.

It is of my opinion, some of our troubled young men today will benefit immensely from the intense structure and discipline the Cadet programme provides.  For all intensive purposes, could they be given an opportunity to join the TCI Cadet programme in lieu of paying a fine or being placed in the criminal justice system? If we can save just one youth from the school to prison pipeline, then it’s well worth the trade off. 

Because of our righteous upbringing in the islands, it’s no surprise that the large majority of our citizens will always endorse the “lock um up” mentality, which we know is not the solution. The inconvenient truth is, we tend to spend a lot of time chastising our youth rather then offering pragmatic solutions and alternatives. What we should be spending more time on,  is challenging our criminal justice system to seek meaningful policy reforms and solutions to the growing trend of incarceration.

Many of our youth today, just need some sort of structure in their lives and another avenue to channel their aggression. The path that some of them are on, concerns me greatly. Many of them can also benefit from an increased sense of responsibility like the communal type atmosphere and self-discipline the Cadet programme offers.

The leaders of the Cadet programme can demonstrate to these special recruits that they truly care about the effects of their actions. They can also help to reinforce the positive attitude of empowerment that comes from making smart life choices and the long term benefits of working towards those goals.

Because of our close knit communities, an offender is practically stuck with a stigma or reputation for the rest of their lives, regardless of the level of crime. In essence, we could be unwittingly perpetuating this stigma. The focus needs to be more on restorative justice, rehabilitation, or meaningful alternatives rather than incarceration. 

It appears there is a fundamental disconnect between the aforementioned three areas as it relates to the reality facing our youth of today, and as we know, too many are already trapped in our criminal justice system. Complicity or status quo with the current criminal justice system of control is not the answer. We have to do more to give then a fighting chance.

Traditionally, militarized type programmes in particular has an underlined reputation of courage and honor. Perhaps, this one might allow an inductee the opportunity to outlive or overshadow their past reputation or stigma and take on this new one. I strongly believe that with the dynamics of our criminal justice system, we are in a unique position to lead the way and become developers of our own ideas and experiments. At the end of the day, the burden of our youth belongs to the nation. 

I will end by saying this, let’s not be too quick to write off our troubled youth as “damaged goods”. The challenge now is left up to our political leaders with the moral courage to take on this nascent idea and explore it as a potential pilot programme. Like the political theorist Tommie Shelby once said, “Individuals are forced to make choices in an environment they did not choose”. 

Therefore, instead of seeking the public opinion and buy-in to build bigger prisons, I say, let’s give our young men a choice, which could very well be a win, win for all.

Ed Forbes

Concerned citizen of Grand Turk

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