Volume 42, Nos.2-3
FOR A CARIBBEAN CRIMMINOLOGY
Guest Editor: Maureen Cain
VOLUME 42, Nos.2-3 JUNE-SEPTEMBER 1996
(Copyright reserved and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden)
FOR A CARIBBEAN CRIMMINOLOGY
Guest Editor : Maureen Cain
Introduction : For a Caribbean Crimminology i
The Chinese Game of Whe Whe in Trinidad: from Crimminalization
to Crimminalisation 1
Violence Between Spouses in Trinidad and Tobago: a research note 29
R. Gopaul and M.Cain
Is Female Crimminality Changing in Barbados? An Investigation Using Self
Report and Official Data 42
The Changing Social Organisation of Crime and Crimminals in Jamaica 61
Drugs and Crimminal Justice in the Caribbean 82
Developing a Juvenile Justice Policy: Anomolies of Theory and Practice in
Trinidad and Tobago 99
Some Aspects of Sentencing in the Crimminal Justice System of Barbados 113
How the Inside Affects the Outside: Prisoners and Survivors in
Trinidad and Tobago 1:
Racism and Law in Australia and Trinidad 1
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS 1
INFORMATION FOR CONTRIBUTORS 1-
(Cover design : M.Cain, executed by W. Hoshing, University Printery,
UWI, Mona Campus)
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES
The lion. R.M.Nettleford, O.M.., Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor of
Continuing Studies, Mona( Kditor)
G(.M. Richards, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Principal, St. Augustine, TIrinidad
Roy Augier, Professor of History, Mona, Jamaica
Sir Keith Ilunte, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Principal, Cave Hill.
Neville McNorris, Department of Physics, Mona
Veronica Saller, School of Continuing Studies, Mona (Managing Editor)
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University of the West Indies,
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This Double Issue of Caribbean Quarterly is timely in its address of Caribbean
Crimminality. The nine articles selected by our Guest Editor, Maureen Cain are
representive of the larger (campus) territories, and together with the excellent
introduction by Professor Cain could be regarded as essential reading, not only for
those professionals associated in any capacity with either the culture of crime or
the legal system, but also for scholars serious about gaining a fuller under-
standing of the Caribbean region. The cover of the issue, chosen by our Guest
Editor illustrates the various influences that are discussed : issues of gender and
race, the destructive effects of poverty, child abuse and incarceration as well as
comparative study, which more than justify the need for our own Caribbean
Approach to Crimminality.
Caribbean Quarterly welcomes the contribution made by Maureen Cain in this
CRIME AND CRIMINOLOGY IN THE CARIBBEAN: AN
It is now twenty years since the late Ken Pryce called for a specifically
Caribbean criminology, pointing out that first world theories do not fit, that in the
Caribbean the global context and the colonial past provide better explanations of
criminality than accounts focusing on the negotiation of face to face encounters,
and also that not all macro theories make equal sense of the problem (Pryce,
1976). In particular, Pryce ibidd), Sumner (1982), and Jones (1981) criticised
modernization theories of "third world" criminality, strongly opposing arguments
that crime is an inevitable consequence of urbanisation which is an inevitable
consequence of development, that former colonies must follow inexorably the
same trajectory which 'the west' followed during the industrial revolution (Clinard
and Abbott, 1973), because among other things, the economic contexts and the
projected futures are radically different. There is, these authors argued, little to be
gained from a grin-and-bear-it philosophy, an endless waiting for the market forces
to sort the problem out. As Howard Jones (op cit) put it, discussing crimes of
violence and what to do about them:
.... any approach to a better understanding of this problem...must
be looked at from the viewpoint of the developing country. Ideas
are often exported as readily as manufactured goods, and the
result is often as disastrous to third world countries". Jones, 1981,
Pryce thus raised the key issue, and in so doing left complex and challenging
dilemmas for the rest of us. In this special issue I argue that, as the array of original
Caribbean scholarship presented here demonstrates, rather than either of the
extreme responses of jettisoning all western criminology or swallowing it
wholesale, Caribbean criminologists must engage with it instrumentally as we
explore the concrete reality of Caribbean experiences: we may use it, supplement
it, and let it be our springboard, as well as challenging it, transgressing it, and
replacing it. Out of this variety of approaches to the world a Caribbean criminology
may be built. What does have to go, unequivocally, is that deferential relationship
with western theory which assumes it to be right even when it does not fit local
experiences, which presents it as received wisdom even when it has no relevance.
A wide variety of approaches is certainly represented within contemporary
Caribbean criminology. This collection itself reveals and, I hope, celebrates this
variety, this play of approaches out of which a truly Caribbean criminology may be
forged. In this introduction I discuss the contributions in these terms, looking at the
ways they connect with western criminology or break free from it, so that readers
can, as it were, watch a Caribbean criminology in the making.
In so doing I acknowledge a serious difficulty with this approach. It could leave
western criminology as the yardstick, the touchstone for all others. The work could
degenerate into an identification of the ways in which Caribbean criminology is
"other", deviant from the norm, beyond the western intellectual pale, even (Said,
1978). In the long run this difficulty can only be avoided by the creation of a
plethora of centres, so that Caribbean criminology (like the others) can speak and
write from its own, emergent centre. The alternative task of this introduction then
becomes that of uncovering and celebrating these points of emergence whilst also
acknowledging where western theorising has been pertinent. This process casts
western criminology itself as one of the many "others", while inevitably continuing
to use, supplement, challenge, transgress and expand it.
My second strategy for evading the use of western criminology as a measuring
rod is a common sense rather than a theoretical ordering of the papers in this
collection. Readers will first consider criminalisation as one among a range of
strategies of social control, and one with limited effectiveness in relation both to
leisure and to domestic relations. Estimates of the scale of the crime problem in
Barbados and Jamaica follow, moving, in the course of a paper on illegal drug
sales and use throughout the region, to an examination of the work of both juvenile
and adult courts, and the impact on the prisoner of the penal system. The final
paper in the collection questions the Common Law itself, and whether it can ever
deliver equal justice.
THEMES IN CONTEMPORARY CARIBBEAN CRIMINOLOGY.
A Lived experience as a starting point..
Caribbean criminology is already very different from western criminology.
People's lived experience has been the main starting point for a new theorisation.
As a result ethnic differences are revealed as central to an understanding of law
making, law breaking, and the penal process in the region. Howard Jones (1981)
and Danns and Parsad (1989), all working in Guyana, used ethnic differences as a
pivotal dimension of their methodology, their analyses of reported crime and
criminal processing, and the victimisation of female spouses, respectively. In the
former case startling differences were revealed. For example, East Indian
offenders were primarily convicted for personal violence, while those of African
descent were convicted primarily for property offences or violence in the course of
these. Patterns of recidivism also varied by ethnic group, as did sentencing
(although the author concluded that on the whole this was fair). In the case of
spousal victimisation (Danns and Parsad, op cit) the difference between ethnic
groups turned out to be negligible, and what needs explaining is the persistent
belief that one group or the other is the worse, more violent in the domestic sphere.
This unravelling and posing of new problems is a crucial first step. In this collection
Gopaul and Cain and Purdy post the question of race/ethnicity at this empirical
level, giving the southern Caribbean societies in particular some basic data to help
them understand their realities a pre-requisite for the development of appropriate
strategies for change, as well as for building a more relevant theory.
Another lived experience which must be explored in any work on the Caribbean
is family structure at the level of experience still as rich and various as Clarke
(1957) found it to be 40 years ago. Birju's work in progress explores the
relationship between a wide variety of family types and victimisation, and in this
volume Ramoutar considers whether matrifocality has resulted in a different
pattern of offending as between boys and girls, men and women from the pattern
in the west. This is a promising start but the rich vein of work on the Caribbean
family has scarcely touched Caribbean criminology. This may be because in the
Caribbean as in the west mythologies take precedence over data which show, for
example, that single parent households are no more criminogenic than two parent
ones (West, 1982). Policy makers need more valid and reliable information as to
how the different Caribbean familial experiences affect life chances of all kinds. A
birth cohort study to explain these patterns of continuity and change would provide
the basis for just such specifically Caribbean theorising and policy making in the
fields of health and education as well as crime.
The lived experience of violence and fear prompts Anthony Harriott in this
volume to a deeper exploration of the crime statistics. What has happened, and
what underlies the fear, is not just an increase in the amount of violence, but a
qualitative change in the kind of violence the region is experiencing. No longer is it
the case, as so frequently documented, that violence mainly occurs between
people who know each other well enough to have strong emotions, whether as
family or as neighbours (eg Binda, 1980). Violence now is increasingly
instrumental, organised, dispassionate, and therefore, fearful. This analysis should
cause scholars in other parts of the world to re-examine their data to see what the
fears of the citizenry are saying.
A fourth lived experience for the Caribbean man and woman is that of migration,
of friends, family, neighbours. Everyone is touched by it. But the international
dimension is essential to an understanding of Caribbean life in ways beyond this
direct experience of travel. Since Europeans took possession of the territories in
the fifteenth century they have been locked into a world economy, which was
always both official and unofficial, legal and illegalised. Ivelaw Griffiths reminds us
of this when he explores how the international trade in illegal drugs has impacted
upon crime and the criminal justice system of most territories in the English
speaking Caribbean. Indeed, Griffiths' methodology demonstrates the point, for in
constructing his argument he frequently has to rely on sources from the United
States rather than local ones.
Making Caribbean lived experience central to the method, allowing it to shape
the questions and the results, has exposed the universalising pretensions of
western theorising. The region needs more of it, perhaps an expansion of the
subversive methodology of oral history into the field of criminology, an insistence
on allowing people to tell their own stories, so that the full variety of people's
actions in their specific situations may be displayed (Silvestrini, 1990). This is
what Hagley attempts in this volume, in her harrowing presentation of prison life in
Trinidad as her respondents knew and recalled it. Caribbean criminology needs
more of this courage to depart from objectifying methodologies, and to let the
subjects speak for themselves; at the same time, as this collection shows, the full
range of traditional methodologies and professional skills must be allowed to
co-exist with the search for more innovative modes of scholarship.
B challenges at the level of theory.
Explicit challenges to western theorisation may arise from a refusal of the data
to fit, or from a refusal by the researcher to accept them at face value.
The analysis by Pryce and Figueira (1980) of rape and socio-economic
conditions is an example of a refusal by the researchers to accept the evidence for
high rates of rape in poor black communities at face value. Instead the authors
forge a new explanation in terms of the hegemony of the colonists' ideals of male
gendering, and a neo-mertonian analysis of restricted access to socially prescribed
goals. The analysis is open to criticism for it seems to require a different theory of
rape for each cultural setting (Cain, 1992). It remains important, however,
because it put down a marker for re-theorisation in Caribbean criminology. Truly,
the discipline was never the same again.
Re-theorisation proceeds at many levels. Hagley's more recent historical work
in Trinidad (1996) reveals weaknesses in the classical canon of western theorising,
which has centralised the state of the labour market (Rusche and Kirchheimer,
1933) or pressure group politics (Ignatieff, 1978) in its explanations of variations in
rates of imprisonment. The ethnocentrism of the claims to generality made by
these theorisations is exposed. In Trinidad at least, ethnic politics, whether on the
street or at the ballot box, provide a more adequate account of variations in
imprisonment rates. The western theories did not even envision the possibility of
a plural society, let alone conceive of its relevance to penal practices.
For my part, when pulling together a range of materials for a Caribbean
criminology programme in Trinidad, I was struck by the criminalisation of African
culture, the lack of legal recognition for East Indian culture (Jha 1982), examples of
which suddenly appeared everywhere once the policing of culture had come to
dominate my thinking: dances and carnivals (Brereton, 1979; Eilmoy, 1990; Ottley,
1964) religious practices and celebrations (Lovelace, 1983; Singh, 1988) and
music and "noise" from the seventeenth century to the twentieth (Rohlehr, 1990;
Bernard, 1991). On the other hand the regulation of labour moved from private
control (Dodd, 1979) through criminalisation (Trotman, 1986) to legal prescription.
It became clear that the western imposed dualistic modes of explanation either
instrumental ones in terms of structure or "post modern" ones in terms of the
inherent powers of discourse would not do. As in the case of the studies based
on lived experiences these dualisms had to be transcended to make sense of
Caribbean life and history. This involved not eclecticism, but a new ontology
which conceives of both relationships and symbolic forms as having their own
integral powers, different, and in constant play and tension with each other.
Re-theorising Caribbean criminology, it seems, will eventually involve re-theorising
the foundations of social science (Cain, 1995A.; 1995B).
In this collection Roy McCree pushes our understanding of the policing of
culture one stage further. He explores the criminalization of the street betting
game of whe whe, and its recent partial incorporation as state-sponsored
gambling. His conclusion is that legalisation is being more effective than
repression ever was in destroying the traditional game. Fascinating both
substantively and theoretically, this paper also transgresses the boundaries of
conventional criminology. What McCree presents us with is the paradox of the
destructive powers of the state when using its powers of sponsorship and
ostensible encouragement. Where this bursting of the disciplinary boundaries will
lead is not yet clear. A new view emerges at each stage of the journey. But
McCree's contribution adds a new dimension to a growing demand for an
expansion of the discipline to include crimes by the state, international crimes.
Now it is clear that this re-theorisation of criminology must not just re-define
more and more abuses as "criminal" and therefore worthy of our attention, but also
explore the consequences of a much wider array and play of positive and
constructive as well as negative and repressive powers. As Sumner (1990,
chapter 2) has argued, we are perhaps moving towards a science of censures.
There is a dialectic of censure, resistance, and the censure of resistance, which
can be seen in most of the works discussed above on the criminalisation and
regulation of culture and labour, but is most clearly apparent in the policing of
politics. Fruhling's (1984) work on Chile displays this deadly dialectical dance
following the overthrow of the elected Allende government, highlighting the Church
as a focal point of resistance, again something which western scholarship cannot
theorise. Mahabir (1988) saw the steelband in Trinidad as well as the Jamaican
"rude boys" as undirected acts of cultural resistance, dealt with by the positive
powers of regulation and incorporation through sponsorship, rather than
criminalisation. Her earlier (1980) paper was also transgressive of western
criminology's conventional boundaries, focusing attention on the politicised and
criminalised black resistance of the Trinidadian Black Power Revolution of 1970,
problematising the lack of black "ownership" of the post-independence polity and
economy. The interplay of legal and illegal patterns of resistance was also
presented by Abdool (1979) in his nicely understated discussion of the "taxi war" in
Trinidad, won, incidentally, by the drivers and their customers. Long term or short
term, the outcome of resistance is for ever unforseeable, and the powers so
effectively deployed in its practice almost always symbolic/discursive as well as
structural/relational. Here too the restrictive either/or choices of western
scholarship must not be allowed to restrict Caribbean interpretations of Caribbean.
It is in studies of resistance and its frequent criminalisation that feminist
scholarship has made its biggest contribution, to date, to Caribbean criminology.
Sometimes criminalised, always censured, by abortion and infanticide slave
women resisted reproducing the slave labour force (Mair, 1986; Dadzie, 1990;
Morrison, 1987); by a myriad of private decisions, by deploying, one must guess,
their own support and censure networks they resisted the introduction of neo-
slavery in the form of childhood apprenticeship after emancipation (Mair, ibid;
Craig, 1994). They used western law as we must use western theory, selectively,
instrumentally, seeking allies where they would and could, never for an instant
losing sight of the goal of personhood for themselves and their children (R.
Brana-Shute, 1990). Thus Surinamese women, as water on a stone, by the slow
increments of individual legal cases forced the metropolitan authorities to address
the issue of dividing slave families, and fed into that stream which became a flood
of demand for emancipation.
Sometimes too women fought pitched battles with and alongside their men.
From the famed Jamaican maroon leader "Nanny", to Sophie, Surprise, and
Solitude in Martinique in 1870, women fought. And if they were caught they paid
the price of double censure, for having been unwomanly as well as for their
temerity in throwing pepper bombs at French soldiers (Krakowitz, 1988).
Caribbean work here adds a new dimension to feminist criminology too.
In this collection MCree's and Hagley's papers best exemplify the continuing
need in Caribbean criminology to find a place for a theorisation in terms of
resistance. McCree's study of the legalisation and regulation of whe whe shows
the "punters" struggling to find a voice for their experience that the new game
doesn't quite live up to the satisfaction standards of the old one. Hagley's
prisoners have used the intensity of group interaction and isolation in the prison
environment to create a language which enables them to survive. This language is
one of resistance to the "double de-culturation" which Hagley identifies as central
to the punitive strategy of imprisonment, which takes already vulnerable identities,
invaded by western understandings of their low value, and potentially de-stabilises
them by further stripping. Her men and women fought back: a few did not make it;
many became wiser, whether in crime, in spirituality, or in the management of daily
life. They survived. They lived to fight another day. The story of the Caribbean.
D. Where the west can help
A number of the papers in this collection ask "western" questions and use
conventional techniques, very skilfully, to uncover the answers. Yet I believe that
even the late Ken Pryce would have been very happy with both questions and
answers. This may be because common questions are posed by the common
institutions and definitions of the criminal justice system; it may be because the
western questions themselves are subversive of western convention, and critical in
their intent; it may be because the issues addressed are universal ones, such as
questions of human rights; or it may be that the concepts in terms of which the
questions are formulated require qualitative comparisons to give them life. The
concept of "gender" is a case in point here, implying as it does that in different
cultures the two sexes may be "engendered" in different ways, that what it means
or takes to be a man or a woman in Jamaica may not be the same as it is in
Guyana, or in Scotland, or in California. It would be academically wrong, and in
policy terms unhelpful, to impose, say, a western theory of youth crime on to
societies such as Guyana or Trinidad and Tobago where the age profiles of known
offenders are quite different (Jones, 1981; Sampson, 1994) and the probability of
'growing out of crime' seems less. But it may not be academically wrong to ask a
more open question, to ask what do various Caribbean courts take into account
when sentencing, what is the pattern of female crime and punishment in a
matrifocal society, or what are the correlates of domestic violence.
The first kind of issue is importantly addressed in this volume by Farley
Brathwaite, who presents us with some anticipated and some very surprising
information about court practices in Barbados. Not to spoil his surprise, I will point
only to the human rights question raised by his paper, for in Barbados as in
Trinidad (Cain and Birju, 1992; Hagley, 1993), a higher proportion of offenders is
being imprisoned, and for longer, and a higher proportion is being remanded in
custody than was the case a decade ago. Is this what the islands of the Caribbean
want, and, given what we know of prison conditions in the region (Hagley, this
volume; Reddock, 1976; Stern, 1990) is this likely to increase or decrease the rate
Questions subversive of western conventions have typically been asked by
feminist scholars in those societies. Currently, however, western feminism has
itself been seen to be ethnocentric, purveying bodies of theory in which western
presumptions about gender, domesticity, and work are imposed on the rest of
womankind, together with the political strategies to which they give rise. The only
way around this which also recognizes that women working together are, for all
their differences, a potent political force, not to mention more than half the world's
population, the only way around seems to be to retrace our steps, to start again
from the simple untheorised concept of woman and ask (not presume, ask)
whether her problems are the same or different in different settings, ask even, how
does gender break, what kinds of differences are there between the sexes, in
Gopaul and Cain ask the first of these questions, which overlaps also with the
universal issue of human rights, in this case the right to personal security in the
domestic sphere. Their starting point is Caribbean unquestioned "common sense"
about violence between spouses, mixed with some feminist folklore which is
equally unquestioned in the Caribbean setting. In asking who gets beaten more
than whom they address these common sense notions, showing some to be false
in the context, and others to be possibly sustained. Leaning here on Danns' and
Parsad's now classic study in Guyana (1989) they argue that while a past of
extreme violence at all levels of the society may connect with and in part explain
contemporary patterns of interpersonal and inter-spousal violence, there is also
heartening evidence that some men and women refuse to be trapped by this
history. In the context of this introduction, perhaps it could be said that Caribbean
people here prove they can resist the trammels of the past, as well as the
impositions of the present.
It is Karen Ramoutar, in the third paper in the collection, who poses the question
"how is gender done", exploring what sex differences there are in self reported
crime in Barbados, as well as differences in the way offenders of different sexes
are treated. Perhaps her own trans-migrant status, having homes in Trinidad,
Canada, Barbados, and, shortly, the UK, made it easier for her to "see" cultural
differences. Certainly her earlier work points to the greater salience of shaming as
a sanction in Barbados than elsewhere (Ramoutar, 1995). But in spite of this, by
and large her results suggest that variations in criminality and sentencing as
between men and women are much the same in Barbados as in the west. We
need to know, if only to counter the "strong women, more crime" argument that is
sometimes used to deplore women's progress.
And Caribbean criminology?
In this deliberately partial review of the growing body of work in Caribbean
criminology I have picked out only those areas of work to which the present
selection of papers contributes. But enough has been said to illustrate the range of
ways in which Caribbean and western theorising can be articulated. In academic
work as in culture more broadly, we may develop our own inventions (as the steel
pan is developing) or we may bring to perfection someone else's invention (cricket,
maybe). There is no one true way, but there is one clear rule: keep the needs and
experiences of the region to the forefront to guide the invention or choice of ideas
from the range of what is possible.
This introduction began with a quotation from Howard Jones (1981) which
forms part of a discussion of how good policies may be formulated. All the papers
collected here have policy implications, most evidently those by Gopaul and Cain,
Griffith, Cain, Brathwaite and Hagley. The identification and refined analysis of a
problem, as in the first two of these, points to where policy interventions are likely
to be effective. Pin-pointing where existing strategies have failed, or appear to be
working in unexpected ways as when hiring a lawyer in Barbados appears to
worsen the client's sentencing prognosis (Brathwaite, this volume) may guide
those responsible for quality control in the penal system as to where and what
remedies are needed. Letting local data shape the issues for attention means that
resources will not be wasted chasing absent juvenile delinquents when there is a
crime wave among adults (Cain, this volume), or expanding certain kinds of
training schemes in prison when the tools of the trade may be sold or lost or cast
aside on release (Hagley, this volume). In this regard why not listen to the
prisoners' own voices. Fifteen years ago they said they wanted counselling and
literary skills (Abdulla, 1980). Perhaps they still do.
New approaches to theory and method do not, therefore, lead to ivory tower
criminologies, preoccupied with the abstract. Rather, they allow criminologists to
see issues which are both pertinent and practical; Caribbean theorising always,
and innovative methods sometimes, are a prerequisite for improving the quality of
life in the region.
Today, with structural adjustment we have crime waves of unprecedented
proportions (Harriott, this volume; Headley, 1996; Sampson, 1994). The quality of
life of all segments and sections of the society has begun to be eroded as the value
of drugs has soared, alternative sources of income have been closed off and
access to weapons has become, apparently, easier. Crimes against the person
continue to rise (Sampson, 1994; Harriott, this volume). This has led to a sudden
demand for criminology, a demand for practical correctional recommendations
from criminologists. For the occupational group this has to be welcomed but also
as professional criminologists committed to the region we have to remember Ken
Pryce's warning. We have to say wait: in the short run we can tell you what is likely
to be effective based on first world research. This is what the Sampson Committee
(1994) in Trinidad did, and it surely has to be better than nothing. But in order to
give really sound advice we have also to take account of regional historical and
feminist studies, and the global as well as the local political economy; secondly, we
have to develop a regional understanding of the processes of criminalization,
criminal behaviour and victimisation, criminal justice, and penal practice as these
processes work today. Inadequate understanding can lead to bandwaggonism,
joining a popular clamour for change without reckoning the price. Whereas, if we
understand contemporary processes of criminalization we shall be able to make
better assessments of the differential impact of legal changes; if we understand
contemporary criminal behaviour and victimisation, if even a better judgment can
be made of the scale and pattern of crime and victimisation, solutions can be more
appropriately tailored to fit the problem; if failings in the police and in the courts
should be identified, then at last putting them right will become a matter of political
or professional will; and if aspects of contemporary penal practice can be shown to
be counter productive, as the Sampson Report ibidd) suggested, then appropriate
changes can be made. Caribbean criminology must remain a critical and
questioning discipline, challenging concepts, understandings, and definitions.
That should not prevent us from contributing to policy development: it will rather
mean that our contributions will be better.
The papers in the current volume contribute to these debates although in the
main they do not seek directly to give advice or make recommendations. But they
expand the knowledge base from which new and transformative and effective
policies might be developed not only within governments but even more
importantly by that plethora of small scale non-governmental organizations which
sustains Caribbean societies, and which constantly seeks to re-construct the
political agenda in ways that will enhance the quality of Caribbean life. Below I
introduce the contributions again, this time focusing upon their substantive content.
OUR CONTRIBUTION RE-VISITED: THE PAPERS IN THIS VOLUME
Roy McCree discusses a shift in the pattern of power deployed in what amounts
to the continuing construction of western hegemony in spite of active efforts since
independence to seize and develop Caribbean cultures. The popular game of whe
whe in Trinidad was originally criminalised not only because it allegedly made
wastrels of those whom the legislators thought should be learning to live on a
pittance, but also because of its embeddedness in community life, and its inability
to be comprehended in terms of a rationalist/modernist discourse. Contemporary
legalisation has substituted a more rational game for the traditional one, which is
being displaced by this subtly but deeply different alternative rather than by its past
and continuing criminalisation. Following Foucault (1978) the author characterises
this as a successful deployment of positive power. The punters, however, are
puzzled by the fact that their previous methods of predicting the winner, derived
from a non-western discourse and a set of qualitatively different social relations, no
longer seem to help them. In my own reading of McCree's paper the punters are
not angry about this precisely because positive power always works invisibly,
leaving the losers unable to name what it is they have lost.
Gopaul and Cain use data collected from help agencies in Trinidad to ask
whether a number of popular views about family violence are "myths or realities",
using Guyanese data (Danns and Parsad, 1989) as counterpoint to the Trinidad
materials. Deploying these resources they are able to reveal as
mythological/ideological the notions that the level of violence against female
partners varies by ethnic group, that the unmarried are victimised more than the
married, and that violence is a means whereby men get their own back on
dominant (or independent) women. Other questions about social class and the
causal impact of having been beaten as a child, yield more ambiguous results. In
conclusion, in surveying the full range of the questions posed, the authors argue
that while the region's violent history may have generated a tolerance of family
violence, the data also demonstrate that it is possible to transcend this past.
Couples who have negotiated a pattern of joint decision making in a non violent
relationship, men victimised as children who have said 'no' to violence in
adulthood, point the way to a less violent future. Certainly here it is clear that
ideologies about successful (dominant?) women 'causing' male violence, as well
as racist ideologies and the hegemony achieved by western marriage patterns, can
stand in the way of solutions to the problems. The paper also exposes again the
dangers of relying on western theories, for in the Caribbean the educational level
of the partners appears to inhibit violence, as it does not elsewhere.
Different questions are posed when established categories of criminality are
taken as given for the purposes of the research, so that other questions may be
addressed. In her contribution to this volume Karen Ramoutar re-analyses data on
self reported crime, which she originally collected for other purposes, in order to
answer a series of questions about sex differences in criminal behaviour and about
the possibility of differential treatment of males and females in the criminal justice
system of Barbados. The importance of this study is not just that it is an object
lesson in research methodology, being the first study of self-reported criminality to
be carried out in the region; the findings also reveal that assessing the relevance of
first world theory to Caribbean reality may be a more complex business than we
thought, for in this paper Ramoutar reveals that in spite of the well known cultural
differences between 'west' and West Indies in the ways men and women live
domestically and, indeed, are engendered, as far as youthful criminality goes the
picture is much the same as in Europe and North America, with males reporting
more criminal acts than females, and also more serious ones. Moreover, this
difference between the sexes is getting bigger, not smaller. A myth about the
deleterious effects of the growing independence of women is shattered.
Another of Ramoutar's carefully documented findings is that males are more
likely to be apprehended for the offences they commit than females. However,
once apprehended, these differences in the treatment of the two sexes more or
It seems, then, that western feminist criminology has guided Ramoutar to the
uncovering of very similar patterns in the Caribbean region. Given the known
differences in domestic arrangements, and the more positive evaluation of
daughters compared to anglo-saxon cultures where sons are preferred, these
findings indicate the problematic nature of male socialisation in many very different
social and economic situations, and a clear site for remedial intervention.
Central to the concerns of many Caribbean peoples is the growth of
unpredictable violence. So no volume on Caribbean criminology would be
complete without an analysis of this phenomenon. This is what Anthony Harriott
provides. Firstly he presents statistical data documenting the seemingly
inexorable expansion of violence in Jamaican society. Importantly, he shows that
as IMF prompted strategies of "structural adjustment" have increased
unemployment and uncertainty in a society with no welfare provision for the work
less, an unholy alliance has been forged between urban gangs, local politicians,
and the drugs trade (see also Campbell 1976 and Calathes, 1990). As a result the
quality of violence, and of terror, has changed, from the interpersonal and
passionate to the detached and instrumental. Secondly Harriott demonstrates how
criminal organizations have also changed, as their embeddedness in the
community and the polity increases the "rationality" of their structure and their
durability. In these complex and hidden ways international economic policies affect
the life chances of every mother and her son in the urban ghettoes of Jamaica, and
perhaps the rest of the less developed world. And the quality of life of the rest of
the populace is affected too, by drug abusing children and by fear.
The problem of drug abuse is not unique to the Caribbean either. Drugs indeed
like other 'third world' products depend on the lucrative 'first world' marketplaces
and drug crops are grown in many less developed countries. Thus Ivelaw Griffiths'
paper is the first in this connection which situates a regional issue in its global
empirical context. However, the specific forms which drug transhipment takes, as
well as the impact of 'drug money' and drug trading on the criminal justice systems
of small island states with relatively poor economies, pose particular problems for
the Caribbean region. While the legalisation of cannabis production and use has
been advocated by the Jamaican scholar Carl Stone (1988), the intimate
connection of Latin American and Caribbean drug production with the huge illegal
market in the United States means that going it alone with legalisation is unlikely to
be a realistic option. Moreover, increasingly the use of cocaine by the youth of the
islands breaks up families and divides traditional communities, the number of
firearms released into the society by the trade increases, and the corruption of
parts of the criminal justice system in different islands is widely suspected. Griffith
carefully documents the growth and effects of the trade in illegal drugs throughout
the region, producing clear evidence in support of many people's worst fears.
Police seizures of both 'hard' drugs and marijuana have increased all through the
region, and the Caribbean countries with the highest production and seizure levels
are also those with the highest levels of the most serious crimes, namely murders
and armed robberies. Because of these correlates, as well as arrests for more
directly drug related offences, the courts in these societies are under extreme
pressure, and the prison systems often overwhelmed. Both the hidden and the
overt costs of the drugs trade are extremely high. Griffith's data take the argument
this far. I would argue too that the drug problem compounds and transforms the
other problems for the poor in structurally adjusted economies, such as high youth
unemployment and falling wages.
The theoretical question of the relevance of first world theorising to the
problems of the developing world is addressed again in Maureen Cain's paper on
the juvenile justice system in Trinidad and Tobago. Her results show the
application of first world theory about youth crime to be misleading if not actively
harmful, for social policies may be formulated on the basis of western derived data
which completely fail to address Caribbean realities. Thus policies may presume
that juveniles and young people constitute the large bulk of offenders, whereas the
evidence suggests that in Trinidad and Tobago this may not be so. And while as
everywhere girls are more severely punished than boys for "bad behaviour" in their
immediate post pubertal years (for being at risk, the author suspects, of a
premature sexual encounter), in Trinidad and Tobago it is small boys who appear
to form the majority of unwanted children. The questions posed by western
feminists, which guided this analysis, proved useful: but the answers produced
were more complex or, quite simply, different. There is no simple rule. However,
the practice of using remands in custody to punish the unconvicted would be
questionable anywhere in the world.
Criminal courts come under scrutiny once again in Farley Brathwaite's
important contribution, a systematic analysis of sentencing in Barbados. In the
context of a shift to more severe sentences by the courts in the last decade, more
sentences of imprisonment and longer terms, he documents how non legal factors
apparently affect the outcome, in addition to expected influences like the offender's
previous record, and the type of crime committed. I will add only two further points
to my earlier discussion of this piece. First, these data suggest that women receive
less severe sentences than men. Ramoutar found little evidence of 'chivalry' at the
sentencing stage. In Barbados, therefore, the question of the effect of sex on
sentencing is still open to debate. Secondly, the lack of any correlation between
the offender's social class and his or her sentence is a surprise another example
to add to the growing body of evidence that empirically what matters in anglo-saxon
cultures does not matter in the Caribbean region, evidence that in the end must
demand re-theorisation in criminology. This re-theorisation should allow for
regional specificities within a more general abstract framework. The past practice
of universalising anglo-saxon experience, of giving this experience precedence in
the construction of a purportedly general theory, limited what it was possible to
know not only in the Caribbean region but in the anglo-saxon countries too.
Careful Caribbean work, therefore, can re-shape global theorising.
Lystra Hagley's contribution to this volume, also challenges global theorising,
albeit in a minor key. For in the course of a vivid discussion of prison life ("every
day there does be blood in jail") and its after effects ("every single Christian got up
and leave me right there on the bench") she also identifies those few prisoners who
transcended their situation. Either spiritually or by developing inter personal skills
some men and women found in the midst of squalor and degradation the seeds for
a new lifestyle.
This is the surprise and the promise: also the challenge, for the next stage
must be the development of policies and practices which build on our small
knowledge of what helps and our very considerable, and in this case global,
knowledge of how imprisonment encourages criminality.
The volume concludes with a short paper by an Australian scholar, Jeannine
Purdy. This piece differs from the others in that it originally appeared as a
newspaper article. The style reflects this original readership, with the result that
the main point is made extremely clearly and firmly. And this point is that an
approximation to European appearance still matters, even within ethnic groups,
and even thirty years after independence. Within the region this is something that
is known and not known. Standards of beauty for men and women as well as
career chances may still ambivalently reflect the notion that light is right, so
brilliantly documented by Lloyd Braithwaite in the pre-independence years
(Braithwaite, 1953). But it perhaps took the eye of a stranger to notice that justice
too is shaped by appearance. Purdy's conclusion is the depressing one, based
also on the experiences of black Australians, that so long as the legal system of the
colonisers is in place eurocentrism will remain covertly embedded in the practices
of the courts. Purdy's merit, then, is the merit of all these papers.
They challenge us to see what has been hidden, obscured by both local
ideologies and the application of falsely globalised theories. And they challenge us
then to act on what we can no longer refuse to know.
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There are so many people on whose assistance I have depended in preparing
this volume, that I shall try to avoid giving offence by restricting those whom I
publicly thank to two. First, I am grateful to Professor Rex Nettleford, for the
opportunity to edit this volume. I hope we have done justice to his confidence.
Secondly, I must thank Mrs Mary Ballard who has typed almost all of these papers
through several drafts and, despite our best efforts, with the inevitable last minute
rush. Thirdly, a big vote of thanks to the contributors for their patience, tolerance,
and creativity. It has been a privilege to work with all of the above.
THE CHINESE GAME OF WHE WHE IN TRINIDAD:FROM
CRIMINALIZATION TO CRIMINALIZATION
Roy Dereck Mc Cree
The history of popular culture in the Caribbean has been a history of criminaliza-
tion. The culture of every subordinate group, be it of a secular or non secular nature
has been legally suppressed, albeit in varying degrees and with varying conse-
quences. In Trinidad and Tobago, the Chinese derived numbers game of whe whe
is one such cultural form which has been the victim of criminalization. Recently, the
government enacted legislation which many saw as representing the legalization of
and invariably the decriminalization of the game for the first time since its introduc-
tion in the 19th century. In the process, the government assumed a direct
entrepreneurial role in the game as owner and manager, through which substantial
revenues have accrued to the State. This paper argues, however, that contrary to
popular perception, whe whe has not really been legalized, for while it is legal to
play the state version of the game, named play whe, it remains illegal to play the
traditional version. However, while the transformation in the legal status of the
game remains at best contradictory or at worst mythical, there have occurred
significant changes from the way that the game has been traditionally played,
which relate particularly to computerization and randomization. These changes
have invariably taken away from its folk character and dynamic, arguably changing
relationships among participants from the richness of qualitative diversity to
abstract and formal equality. It is also argued that the action of the state can be
seen as the expression of a positive form of power, for although it enables the
individual to be involved in the game under the veil of legality, it is the state which
exercises absolute control over its operations. The paper is divided into the
following sections: (a) Chinese migration to Trinidad, (b) the structure and historical
development of the game, (c) the early movement to criminalize, (d) the movement
to decriminalize, (e) the reaction to State legalization, (f) whe whe and the State
and the state of whe whe. In this latter section, I examine the consequences of
State involvement for the structure and functioning of the game, and the issues
relating to criminalization.
Chinese Migration to Trinidad
Chinese migration to Trinidad began in 1806, the result of an idea first articu-
lated in 1802 by a British military official (Higman 1972, pp22-23; Millette 1992,
pp16-19). Chinese immigrants were sought primarily because of their perceived
industrious and submissive character and they were expected to fulfill two main
objectives. Firstly, and in the immediate term, they had to satisfy the pressing
labour needs of the planters. Secondly, and in the long term, they were supposed
to serve as an intermediate class or "buffer" between the whites and coloureds,
hopefully by developing into "a yeomanry of agricultural labourers and small
holders" (Goodenough 1976, p30; Higman 1972 pp21-24). While accounts differ
on the exact numbers involved, the first wave of immigrants numbered between
192 and 194 (Millette 1993, p17; Higman 1972, p28). However, this first attempt to
use Chinese labour failed as they did not live up to the expectations of the planters
and colonial officials as many not only left the plantations but also exercised their
option to return home. The principal reasons which have been advanced to
account for the failure of this first scheme include the unsuitability of Chinese
migrants for plantation work, and their preference for independent occupations
such as fishing, animal husbandry, trading, and shoe making (Higman 1972,
p32-39). In respect of their unsuitability, it was stated that these Chinese were
mainly the disreputable elements of Chinese society who were unaccustomed to
agricultural work. Thus, by October 1807, almost a year after their arrival, there
were only 113 of them left on the island and their numbers depleted more rapidly
thereafter. For instance, by 1810 only 23 remained, which fell to 10 in 1827 and 7
in 1834 (Higman 1972, p34). The 1838 Census recorded five Chinese residing in
the city of Port of Spain, but the validity of this figure has been questioned since it
may not have taken into account Chinese who were still living in the village of
Cocorite situated north-west of the capital, where they were first made to settle
(Goodenough 1976, p31). However, this does not negate the fact that by the
1830s, the Chinese had all but disappeared from the island.
One may plausibly conjecture that the rapid decline in the Chinese population
and its relatively small size did not allow for the game of whe whe to develop or
perhaps be introduced into the island. In any event, prior to 1834, the African slave
community would not have had the necessary cash to become involved in this
game. In addition, the language barrier would also have been a hindrance to the
process of cultural diffusion or acculturation.
It took well over four decades before official Chinese migration was again
attempted, in 1853. The abolition of British slavery in 1834, the termination of the
apprenticeship experiment in 1838 and the attendant labour crisis, precipitated
this decision to seek new sources of labour in Asia generally, and in Europe to a
lesser extent. Renewed Chinese immigration coincided with a period in which
China was experiencing tremendous socio-economic hardships linked to political
and military conflicts both internal and external. Against this backdrop, in 1853, 988
Chinese immigrants entered Trinidad, and by 1861-1865, the numbers had risen to
1,657 (Roberts and Byrne 1966, 131). However, this second attempt at recruiting
Chinese was plagued with the same problems as the first, and was aggravated
further by a high incidence of sickness and mortality (Wood 1968, p163-166). The
Kung Convention of 1866 provided the final impetus for the termination of this
second migration scheme, in that same year. This Convention represented an
agreement between the Chinese ruler Prince Kung, France, and Britain, aimed at
protecting Chinese migrants from inhumane treatment. The conditions of this
agreement augmented the costs of importing Chinese labour which proved prohibi-
tive for planters who were already dissatisfied with their performance and be-
haviour. However, unlike the first scheme, the majority of those who came
remained, which can be attributed to the harsh socio-economic conditions then
prevailing in China. But, although official Chinese migration ceased in 1866,
Chinese still continued to migrate to Trinidad in the late 19th and early 20th
centuries although in much smaller numbers. And they came not only from China
but also from Jamaica and British Guiana, the latter being the major recipient of
Chinese migrants in the Caribbean (Millette 1992, p32-34). A significant number of
those who came did so through family and friends who had informed them of
Trinidad through letters or through visits home (Chinapoo 1989, p23). Moreover,
wealthy Chinese are known to have made representations to the colonial govern-
ment for permission to sponsor immigrants, usually family members. In some
instances they were allowed to do so after paying a bond and accepting respon-
sibility for the immigrant as stipulated by law (Millette 1993, p32-34; Chinapoo
1989, p24-28). This law was embodied in the Pauper Immigration Ordinance of
1926, which was amended in 1931 and 1936 (Government of Trinidad and Tobago
1937, p114-137). Usually, the sponsors would employ the migrant in their business
The second period of Chinese migration thus differed from the first scheme in
1806 in terms of the numbers that came, the stability of the population and their
general dispersal throughout the country, although they still tended to be con-
centrated in Port of Spain, the main town. These factors created some of the
objective conditions necessary to facilitate the introduction and development of the
game of whe whe throughout the country.
The Structure and Historical Development of the Game
While it is generally accepted that the game of whe whe is Chinese in origin,
there is uncertainty over its original Chinese name. For instance, Chinapoo (1989)
suggests that the original name is "Marchong". Besson (1995) suggests that it is
"Chinapoo", while Lee (1995) suggests that it is "Pakka Pin". The author was
unable to ascertain whether these were merely different ways of referring to the
same game. In addition, how the game came to be termed whe whe locally is still
not known. Originally, there was a tendency to spell the term whe whe, in French
fashion. The prevalence of French orthography could be explained by the fact that
during the 19th century when the Chinese arrived, French was one of several
languages spoken in the island and more particularly its creole version known as
patois, which was the dominant language amongst the black folk (Brereton 1979,
p166), who became deeply involved in the game. This spelling persisted into the
20th century, but whe whe became the dominant orthographic practice as the
century progressed, and as English superseded French as the dominant and
popular means of communication in the society. The spelling whe whe continues
up to this day.
The game has three major dimensions which relate to its numerical character,
the different methods by which numbers are chosen, and its organization: that is
the rules, procedures for playing, and the time at which the game is played. In
relation to its numerical character, the game is based on the numbers from 1 to 36
which are known as "marks". Each number or "mark" represents a particular
human, non-human or inanimate symbol. These include men, women, animals,
reptiles and insects. For instance the number 1 represents a Centipede, 2 an Old
lady, 3 a Carriage, 4 a Deadman and 10 a Monkey (See Appendix I). In addition,
each mark has a "partner" and some may also have a "spirit", which are in effect
other "marks". For instance the "spirit" of 1 is 4, while its "partner" is 5 (Parson
Man) (See Appendix I). In the beginning, the game was steeped in Chinese
nomenclature. For instance, "marks" were written in Chinese and their correspond-
ing characters or names reflected Chinese ideography "... which had to be trans-
lated into Creole and later the English language" (Scott 1992, p30).
Several methods, of a non-rational nature, either singularly or in combination
were employed by punters or players to select a "mark". These included the use of
body charts, line or numerical charts, of which there were several, dreams,
"hunches", events, or particular occurrences. In relation to dreams for example, if
one dreamt of an airplane, the relevant number to play was 3 (Carriage). Most
dreams, however, admitted several possibilities. For instance, for a dream which
involved lovemaking the appropriate numbers could have been 16 (Jammette), 17
(Pigeon) as well as 32 (Shrimp) (NLCB 1995). Originally, "marks" were selected
through the use of a Chinese chart which the Chinese alone possessed. After the
"mark" or "marks" were chosen, they were then communicated to the person who
was responsible for collecting the wagers, selecting the winning "mark", and paying
those who chose the correct mark. This person is known as the "banker" or "whe
whe banker." The banker would then record the chosen "marks" on a piece of
paper which was first called a "ticket". This format was altered in the 20th century
as punters were allowed to record the chosen numbers themselves on what were
now called "lists". At the bottom of each "list", the amount of the bets was totalled
and a special code written to identify the person who wagered. Following this, the
list or "pot", as the bet was popularly called, was handed over to the banker.
The selection of the "mark" by the banker was supposed to be a secretive
process. Its selection was referred to, in the lexicon of the game, as the "bussing of
the mark". The winning "mark" was first communicated to punters on a role of paper
which was attached to a string and suspended from either a roof or a tree. The
former method preceded the latter which came to replace it (Scott 1992, p35-37).
The game was generally played twice per day and seven days per week. General-
ly, the first draw of numbers took place at mid-day while the second took place at
4.00 pm. The game could be played in a variety of locations such as "houses,
savannahs and other open spaces", which were "clandestinely" positioned and
supposedly secret (ibid.). The place where a game was played was called a "turf"
or a "whe whe turf." One of the important rules in the selection of "marks" was that
a mark which was played or chosen at the first draw, could not be replayed at the
second draw. This was called a "dead mark", and was consistent with the non-ran-
dom character of the game. In other words, a "mark" could only be played once per
day. In relation to the stakes, in the beginning the odds on betting were thirty cents
to one cent, which was changed over time to thirty dollars to one dollar. However,
while this was the general case, the size of the odds which bankers offered was a
function of the financial resources which they possessed. For instance, in a
situation where the banker had what was termed "limited banks", the odds might be
reduced to $25.00 to $1.00, $20.00 to $1.00 or $15.00 to $1.00 (Scott 1992, p29).
Whether one chooses to view it as a promotional marketing strategy or not, it
should be noted that bankers contributed some of their earnings to the community
by providing material assistance in times of joy, ill-health, or sorrow. In this respect,
it was noted that
Bankers have been known to help regular players who needed
monetary assistance in health matters or otherwise. One player
related how on the death of her husband, a whe whe player, the
banker brought a small sum of cash, bottles of rum, Bermudez
Crix biscuits and coffee to be used for the 'wake' (an all night vigil
over the dead held in communities). The cash was later used for
funeral expenses. At Christmas, many bankers bought wine, rum
and other drinks... to distribute to regular all-year players... There-
fore the banker was able to share the profits from his business,
once a year to all regular customers (Scott 1992, p27).
There can be no doubt that this assistance provided by the "banker" increased
the functional value of the game to the community or to those who played. Surely,
it might also have been functional to the banker by serving to maintain or attract
clientele and by ensuring communal support in times of police raids or investiga-
A very important aspet of the early game was the role played by individuals
variously called "touts", "travelling agents", "markers", and "couriers". These
served generally as intermediaries or middlemen between the punters and the
banker. They performed several important tasks which included communicating
"pots" to the banker on behalf of people who may have feared being caught and
prosecuted, and collecting winnings on their behalf. In addition, they helped
punters to choose "marks" by interpreting dreams and events, and even the
Chinese nomenclature. To help players choose a "mark", "touts" also used as aids
numerical charts and a logbook in which they recorded the "marks" that were
played each day. For their assistance, "touts" normally received a commission or
"waters" as it was called. It could be said that "touts" operated a veritable consult-
ancy, and played a significant role in the spread and development of the game.
As expected, the game was first restricted to the Chinese community and
played in their "social clubs", "quarters" and business places (Scott 1993, p14). In
the early 1880s, however, it is suggested that the game started to spread among
the "creole" population through the curiosity and interest of "creole youth" who got
to know the game, became involved in its organization and encouraged the
Chinese to involve the community (Trinidad Chronicle, 22 July 1882).
For the Chinese, the game served as a means of accumulating capital which
was used further to assist the needy within their community. In addition, earnings
from the game may have also helped the Chinese to develop their other business
activities, notably in shop keeping and laundering. However, it is revealed that the
Chinese also incurred significant financial losses through bankruptcy (San Fernan-
do Gazette, 12 August 1882; San Fernando Gazette, 17 November 1883).
Chinese organizational dominance of the game persisted up to the 1920s, for by
the 1930s, other groups in the society namely "East Indians, Creoles (negroes and
coloureds)," started to assume the role of banker and control their own "turfs"
(Scott 1992, p35; See also Bickerton 1962). Today, it is these latter groups which
are known to be predominantly involved in the game as organizers and as par-
ticipants. The Chinese are hardly known to be involved in any way in the traditional
game which their foreparents brought to the island.
The Early Efforts to Criminalize Whe-Whe
The criminalization of the game in the 19th and 20th centuries was effected
through both the passage of prohibitive legislation and relatedly, the conduct of
police raids and the arrest of participants. In addition, lite opposition to the game
also helped to create the context which hastened and legitimized the formulation of
the necessary legislation.
The early opponents were unanimous in their virulent condemnation of the
game and its supposed pernicious effects on the lower classes in particular and the
society as a whole. In the early media reports of the game between 1881 and 1882,
which are cited below, it was variously described as a "monster evil", "hydra-
headed", a "fraud", a "swindle", "seductive", "abominable" and "systematic
roguery." They charged that the game was damaging to the morals and in-
dustriousness of the lower classes, encouraged the poor utilization of their financial
resources with ruinous consequences for themselves and their families. Writing in
relation to the development and effects of the game in Port of Spain in 1882, the
editor of the Trinidad Chronicle noted:
... the abominable Whe Whe- a Chinese form of gambling... is in
full operation for many weeks in the Chinese quarter of Port-of-
Spain (we mean Upper Prince Street), working a serious amount
of demoralization amongst a class of people always open to
temptation and already deeply sunk in ... dangerous and corrupt
ways. Idle women and youths have been known to rob or procure
money on a lying pretext to obtain the means of staking ten dollars
with the ardent hope of drawing-with no further trouble or labour-
THREE HUNDRED. This having been won on some occasions,
set hundreds of those vagabonds wild with a foolish hope. It is
gambling made easy (Trinidad Chronicle, 18 February 1882).
In relation to the development of the game in the island as a whole and in the
Southern Borough of San Fernando, in particular, it was observed:
The hydra-headed monster, the Chinese Whe Whe still holds its
own, and still stalks in grim reality through the length and breadth
of the land, despite the trials made by various judicial Courts for its
suppression: yea, despite all the various warnings of the Press of
the Colony the evil has been allowed not only to take root, but now
has grown to such an alarming extent in San Fernando- and
doubtless in other parts of the Colony- that there is no knowing or
predicting what will be the result of the crop to the future men and
women in Trinidad...Strong stalwart men, who have always been
known to work and earn an honest penny, are to be seen rushing
wildly up and down the streets of the town periodically doing the
work of "markers" to this infamous swindle. Such persons as
domestics, children on errands, and others involuntarily allow
themselves to be betrayed into the trap; for, unlike your large
lottery affairs, Two Cents on "morocoy" or other of these Chinese
symbols would very soon dispose of any surplus... (San Fernando
Gazette, 1 July 1882).
In San Fernando, where the game was particularly rampant, there were reports
which alleged that the game was having a negative impact on commercial activity,
which was used as part of the arsenal to attack it (San Fernando Gazette, 20
November 1880, 22 January 1881, 17 November 1883), but no conclusive
evidence was adduced to support this contention. However, while some members
of the Blite were voicing strong opposition to the game, there were those on the
other hand, who were directly involved. In 1881 for instance, it was reported
That the evil and seductive influences of this monster trade in
gambling affects all grades of society alike (Emphasis Added), is
sufficiently established by the number of all classes who, at every
hour of the day, throng these demoralizing agencies to purchase
tickets (San Fernando Gazette, 22 January 1881).
One writer, however, while admitting that there was cross-class involvement in
the game, suggested that this pertained more to the "higher" and "lower" classes
than it did to the middle classes. This was attributed to the fact that the latter
attached more value to hard work and thrift. It was argued thus:
A fondness for Games of Chance is founded in instincts of
humanity that are common to all classes of society, although it is
remarkable that in this, as indeed in everything of a dangerous
nature, the Middle Classes are far freer from reproach than the
High and the Low classes. It may be accepted that the addiction
to constant, almost ceaseless toil of the Middle Classes, with the
object either of making a competence or securing it makes them
value too truly, if not too highly, the means they have acquired by
hardwork, prudence and thrift, to admit of their foolishly hasarding
[sic] it on games of chance; and habits of steady industry have
become so natural and pleasant to them that they are not exposed
to any serious system of speculation the elements of which are so
far beyond control. It is not so with the upper and lower classes...
(Port of Spain Gazette, 7 March 1888).
The dominant view nevertheless was that all classes were involved. But despite
this multiple class involvement, it was the involvement of the "lower classes" which
was seen as the bete noire and became the major focus of criticism and police
action. This was linked to the belief that lower class involvement in gambling was
more detrimental to society than that of the elite, and to the different positions they
occupied in the social hierarchy. In these respects, it was noted:
... there can be no question that gambling among the lower clas-
ses is more immediately dangerous and hurtful to society, as
striking at its base, besides which, as it is less susceptible of
concealment, so is it more hideous and repulsive in appearance.
That the existence of the vice where it may be considered most
menacing to society is associated with conditions that make it
more easily amenable to law is fortunate, for were the upper
classes the quarter which it was most necessary to attack, the
chances of success would not be very encouraging (Port of Spain
Gazette, 7 March 1888).
Under the Summary Conviction Ordinance 6 of 1868, individuals could be
prosecuted for their involvement in whe whe under the section entitled "Gaming
Houses." Gaming was the term used to refer to gambling. For instance, section 38
In default of other evidence to prove a house, room or place to be
a common gaming house, it shall be sufficient to prove that it is
kept or used for playing therein at any game of chance, and that a
bank is kept there by one or more of the players exclusively of the
others, or that the chances of any game played therein are not
alike favourable to all the players, including among the players the
banker or other person by whom the game is managed, or against
whom the other players stake, play, or bet (Government of
Trinidad and Tobago, 1884, 84).
But, in spite of the existence of this provision, it is interesting to note that there
was little or no knowledge on the part of those who clamoured for the eradication
of the game in the 1880s. For instance, an editorial of the San Fernando Gazette of
22 January 1881 stated in part that :
Whether or not there exists, in the laws of this colony, an enact-
ment which provides against a system of fraud, which, by allure-
ments, encourages purloining among children and subordinates,
alienates the affections of the domestic heart, and precipitates the
chances of misery among the lower classes in the matter of this
novel lottery, we are in blissful ignorance. Acting on the assump-
tion that the Government of every country is responsible for its
well-being, we assume that either there should be a law guarding
against the encouragement of such vices, or that the state should
be competent to legislate against their continuance the moment
they manifest themselves directly in opposition of the general
A letter to the editor of the same newspaper posed the question directly and
Is there no kind of Ordinance or anything in the shape of laws that
can cope or deal effectively with that monster evil- growing out of
all proportions in our midst- the Chinese Whd-whe? (San Fer-
nando Gazette, 15 January 1881).
The Henry Court Appeal Judgment of 1882 illustrated more strikingly the level
of ignorance and uncertainty which existed over the existence or non-existence of
legal provisions to deal with whe whe. The judgment was in relation to an appeal
of two men who were arrested and convicted for "keeping a common gaming
house." An editorial response to the judgment lamented the failure of the Court to
use the case to make clear the nature or position of the law on the matter, and
thereby remove the uncertainty that existed over the illegality of the game. While
not sufficiently clear on the actual details of the case, the editorial stated:
Owing to some informality on the part of the Appellants in the
service of a notice required by the law affecting appeals, of which
the Attorney General took advantage, the case was not gone into,
and thus the Magistrate's decision was confirmed, by which,
deprived of the privilege of a defence, the Appellants will be
required to pay each the sum of 50 sterling, or suffer three
months imprisonment in the Royal Gaol, with hard labor. Con-
sidering all the interest that has been attached to this case on
account of the conflicting opinions entertained by the community
respecting the illegality of the wh6 whe- of which the offence with
which the appellants were charged is but the outcome, consider-
ing also the anxiety with which the issue of the appeal was looked
for, and the doubts which visibly hang on the minds of the
magistracy, the police, and the public respecting the justification of
the means hitherto adopted to suppress the most systematic
roguery ever introduced in the island, all the light that exhaustive
arguments on both sides of the question could have thrown in the
discussion of the grounds of appeal would have been of the
greatest utility for the guidance of the future as well as those, who,
... are led to destruction by the seductions of the wh6-wh6, as of
those who, how desirous so ever they may be to act in the
suppression of crime, are in a great measure trammelled in their
actions by legal doubts and fears.... As matters now stand, though
PROSPER and PIERRE will atone not only for their manifold
transgressions as professional gamblers, but for a share of the
iniquities of a growing and abandoned multitude; though the
punishment inflicted on them is sufficiently heavy to act as a
deterrent to many who are the unfortunate votaries of the whe-wh6
swindle, the uncertainty with respect to the propriety of legal
interference and the extent to which it may lawfully be carried are
now as great as ever it was, and this opportunity lost of obtaining
the learned judge's opinion on the general feature of the whe-whe
which would in all probability have been brought to the notice of
the court would act prejudicially to the object which brought the
case into existence. We have lost the chance of knowing whether,
notoriously iniquitous as the wh6-whe is, it may not be carried on
to an unlimited extent with all the impunity which has been the
leading characteristic of every confirmed stakeholder in the dis-
graceful concern (San Fernando Gazette, 15 July 1882).
However, it was not until 1888 that official action was taken to create legislation
to deal specifically with the game through the passage of Ordinance 5 of 1888. This
legal offensive formed part of a wider crackdown on the culture of the subordinate
groups in the society at the end of the 19th century (Brereton 1979; Trotman 1986).
In the case of whe whe, the final impetus or catalyst to this cultural crackdown
arose out of another court judgment in relation to the game. While the details of the
proceedings of the Court of Appeal were not provided, the press report suggested
that the decision had to do with the failure of Chief Justice Gorrie to uphold the
"heavy fine" imposed on a convicted player in the Magistrate's Court. The decision
was blamed for the subsequent growth of the game throughout the island. Before
the actual passage of the Ordinance, a letter to the editor of the Port of Spain
Gazette stated in part:
... in San Fernando... "one of the crying evils in our midst" is the
WhB-Wh&. For a time our Magistrate set his foot upon the viper
and nearly killed it, but alas, it has revived again, by the decision
of our learned judge, and its devastations are something fearful
and awfully demoralizing. The poorer classes, men who were
good tradesmen and good labourers, we see them now idle and
dissolute, caring for no one and no one appears to care for them,
cooks, and other women servants who once attended to their
duties, now are quite incapable of doing so, as their brains (or
whatever is left) are wholly engrossed in studying and dreaming
over the advisability of laying out their six cents or whatever sum
they can borrow or get hold of by fair or foul means to lay on
"Butterfly" or "Fowl" or "Cockroach" or whatever they dream or
consider may be the winning object... (Port of Spain Gazette, 7
After the passage of the Ordinance, the San Fernando Gazette stated in
We say this, that had his Honour the Chief Justice upheld the
decision of Mr Stipendiary Justice Child, when a Heavy fine was
inflicted on the man Floyd, the necessity of the present move of
the Attorney General would not have been, as the effect of the
sentence would have entirely obviated all chances of a repetition
of the evil... Some years ago... continued raids on the dens
together with the heavy penalties inflicted by Mr SJP Child, had
led us to hope that the game would have been numbered among
the things that were, but the decision to which we now alluded
seemed to give it new life and vigour and it was then that its
poisonous branches spread to every quarter of the country carry-
ing ruin and desolation into the homes of those who fell victims to
the allurements thereof. We hope... that with the passing of this
new Ordinance, any infringement of the law in that respect would
be met with the severest punishments that might be prescribed
(San Fernando Gazette, 17 March 1888).
In admitting that the new legislation was aimed specifically at whe whe, the then
Attorney General (A-G), in advancing its rationale, stated that it arose out of
concern over (a) the game's demoralizing effects on the labouringg classes", (b)
their indulgence in what was tantamount to a form of petty larceny, and (c) the
wastage of their savings which it encouraged. As noted by Trotman:
The Attorney General agreed that the new ordinance was directed
at a custom peculiar to the Chinese, but the game was an in-
tolerable nuisance that led to much demoralizing among servants
and the laboring classes and therefore demanded vigorous sup-
pression. He argued that although the stakes were small-between
three and twelve pence- the game encouraged a system of petty
larceny among servants, and the laboring classes were tempted to
spend their savings in the hope of winning the jackpot (Trotman
The new Ordinance was distinguished from the 1868 Ordinance
by the following: (a) it specified the game of whe whe in particular
as a form of lottery, although it also applied to all lotteries or games
of chance; (b) it specified the particular or unique features of whe
whe such as "tickets", "lists", "figures" and "numbers"; (c) it
identified all the different players in the game without directly
calling their names viz. "bankers", "touts", and "punters"; (d) the
police were authorised to make raids without warrants under spe-
cial circumstances, but only those who held the position of ser-
geant and above qualified for this provision (Government of
Trinidad and Tobago 1902, p137-138). There were no significant
changes relating to penalties. Owners of "gaming houses" or their
accomplices still faced a maximum fine of 50 or six months "with
or without hard labour". If these owners were also "bankers", they
faced the same fine as above, but a lesser maximum sentence of
three months in prison "witt or without hard labour". The other
players (punters, "touts") faced a maximum fine of 20 or two
months maximum in prison "with or without hard labour" (ibid.). In
the previous Ordinance, the latter were liable to be fined 10
maximum with no option to be imprisoned (Government of
Trinidad and Tobago 1884, p84). However, the enacted legislation
never had the desired effects of eliminating the game or sufficient-
ly discouraging people's involvement, which was largely due to the
strategies and tactics of evasion which they employed. But it was
not until 1932 that several major changes or amendments were
made to the provisions concerning the game. The need for the
amendments arose largely out of the deficiencies of the existing
provisions which undermined the prosecution of individuals and
relatedly, limited the powers of arrest of the police. These deficien-
cies pertained to (a) the difficulty in proving legally that those who
solicited bets were actually involved in the "management of the
game"; (b) a Court ruling that the "papers" on which "marks" were
written did not constitute "lottery tickets"; and (c) the restriction of
powers of arrest, without the need for a warrant, to officers from
the rank of sergeant only.
In stating the aims of the 1932 amendment to the Gambling Ordinance, the then
Acting Attorney General declared:
The objects of this Bill are for the purpose of making the law more
stringent against the form of gambling commonly known as "whe-
whe", and in order to enable the police to cope more effectively
with this form of gambling (Government of Trinidad and Tobago
The debate or discussion that ensued over the proposed amendment of the
gambling laws assumes significance for it reveals official admission of the failure of
legislation to stamp out the game and more importantly, the various moralist,
egalitarian, and self-righteous reasons advanced for prohibiting its practice.
In introducing the motion to amend the legislation thus, the A-G went on to
I have known of similar games in other Colonies under different
names such as "Drop Pan" and the more oriental name of "Peaka
Pow", but I must say that the ethics of those games are on a much
higher standard than those of wh6 wh6, for at least those who
contribute are given a sporting chance (however remote that may
be) of some success, but the game as played here has no
redeeming feature whatever, I am sorry to say. It is impossible to
control those who promote the game, and they are so able to
manipulate the winning numbers that they choose those on which
there has been the least amount of contributions, and by that way
they are able to retain by far the largest amount of money involved.
Those who go about soliciting subscriptions, commonly called
"markers", have a very wide latitude. They get somebody to
choose a particular number, and if per chance this happens to be
the winning number the marker goes back to his friend and says "I
am very sorry. I was too late". As a matter of fact he is never too
late but actually keeps for himself the winnings, and perhaps after
some struggle the poor contributor gets back the money which he
gave to the marker. I [sic]fact, from what I can see, the whole thing
is nothing but a swindle which benefits very few men who are
known as "Wh6-whd kings" on account of the fortunes they amass
and it is my opinion that very much wider powers should be given
under the law. Perhaps some honourable members in reading the
Bill might think that the powers sought are very wide, and that we
are infringing on the liberty of the subject, but I must say this in
justification that those who are concerned in this game are in the
majority loafers and wharf-rats who seem to think it is their
privilege never to do an honest day's work, and they go about
prowling on the poor people who hardly have the money to spare
on these games ibidd., 71-72).
In what is tantamount to a defence of elite involvement in other forms of
gambling, as opposed to the involvement of "poor people" in gambling such as whe
whe, the A-G continued:
I have heard some say if people in wealthy circumstances are
allowed to buy tickets in large sweepstakes, why then should not
poor people be allowed to have their fun. That may be so, but the
wealthy people are nevertheless infringing the law, and besides
they do not spend the money at the sacrifice of their dependents,
whereas most of those concerned with whe wh6 cannot afford to
spare even the few pence involved, except they deprive their
dependents of some of the necessities of life ... When honourable
members consider the demoralizing effect and the misery that is
brought on some people by this gambling game and the difficulty
we have had in checking it, they will have no difficulty in supporting
the measure before the House ibidd., p72).
In short, the A-G was saying that it was alright to gamble once one had the
necessary financial resources to do so, and, as an extension of this, that gambling
was more dysfunctional for the poor than for the rich, which was the same line of
reasoning advanced in the 19th century. In relation to the specific changes sought
and the factors that prompted them, the A-G stated:
As far as the clauses of the Bill are concerned, the first clause is
merely to bring the definition of "lottery" in accordance with the
definition of "lottery ticket" in the original Ordinance and to make it
quite clear that it applies to this game of whe-whe. Clause 2
creates two new offences: assisting at or taking part in a lottery,
and, secondly, having in one's possession or under one's control
what are known as "whe-whe" marks. Under the existing law,
section 7 (e) of Cap. 28, it has been found that it is impossible to
secure a conviction against those people who go about soliciting
subscriptions. As the law now stands it must be proved that they
are taking part in the management of the game, which is a most
difficult thing to do. Those, in fact, who are actually running this
game, keep well in the background and it is almost impossible to
bring them within the pale of the law. The second amendment
refers to persons having whe-whe marks in their possession. It
has been held by the Court that these "papers" are not lottery
tickets, and rightly so: but to give an instance how subtle these
people are, in one of the cases it actually came out in evidence
that one of the "markers" got hold of a prospective subscriber, and,
in order to evade detection, took him into a chapel and there in
pretended adoration they carried out their little scheme. The
"marker" got the money, and on the inside of the lining of his hat
the marks were found written. Certainly, very wide powers must be
given to the police in order to enable them to cope with these
subtle methods of carrying out the game ibidd).
In order to widen the powers of the police, the new amendment made it possible
for a constable to raid any public premises where the game was believed to be
played without a warrant. Previously, only officers from the rank of sergeant and
above had this authority. As told by the A-G:
The last clause provides that an ordinary constable will have the
right to raid on reasonable suspicion, but only in an open place or
yard, or on premises to which the public are invited. Under the
present section it is necessary that a police constable should be
accompanied by a superior officer of certain rank. Usually or-
ganized raids are made, but in fact these raids are not very
effective because these people who play whe-whe are always
aware in some unaccountable manner when these raids are to
take place. They have their spies about, and it is very seldom that
such raids are effective. Now the Bill provides that a constable will
be able without any pre-arrangement, to raid an open yard or
place where this game is being carried on ibidd).
The proposed amendment was generally supported by the subsequent
speakers whose reasons were basically similar to those advanced by the Attorney
General in introducing the amendment. In his contribution, for instance, Mr.
O'Reilly stated in part:
I do not think that we can seriously oppose the principle which is
involved in the Bill now before the House. It is designed to
strengthen the hands of the authorities and so stamp out a game
which, whatever else might be said about it, does not give an even
break to those persons who put their money into it. ... Whe whe is
obviously something which must be stamped out because it is
conducted on dishonest lines ibidd., p74-75).
Another speaker not only echoed some of the sentiments of the previous
contributors but alleged that children also indulged in the game. While supporting
the legislation "to abate a very serious evil," he added:
Not only do the people who indulge in the game not get a fair
chance but we find that it has taken such a hold on the poorer
people that the children when given their pennies for lunch often
invest them in buying whe-whe marks; and you have the worst
sharpers you can get going among the illiterate people and swin-
dling them... This is one of the cases where people must be saved
against themselves ibidd p77).
While noting the inconsistencies in the application of the law to the rich and to
the poor in their gambling activities and the use of same as an argument against
the prosecution of the poor, one Mr Kelshall held that the issue was not one of
"principle," since the idea of principle was at variance with gambling as a whole.
The issue rather, and thus the rationale for the legislation, had to do with the
perceived unfair nature of whe whe itself. He stated as follows:
...I do not think that any right-minded person in this Colony can
disagree that there is a necessity to control this evil. One objection
I have heard, in regard to controlling the liberty of the people in
such matters is as follows. Why should the man of means more or
less (in these days perhaps rather less than more) be allowed to
go to his Club to gamble, sometimes under the eyes of the police,
because he can call certain things "counters", when he (as well as
the police) knows perfectly well that those things are to all intents
and purposes coins, while you round up some little boys who are
gambling with their halfpennies in some secluded spot and hale
them before the magistrate and send them to gaol? Sometimes
cab men amusingl'themselves with "All Fours" find themselves in
positions where men who are better placed in life will not find
themselves, although they are committing the same offence. You
will never get a law passed in any legislature against gambling -
not in this stage of civilization. Of course, sometimes you
camouflage it by allowing people to gamble for the "Turf Club"
when you prevent them gambling in connection with the "Irish
Sweepstake". There is no principle in that. I object to any refer-
ence of principle when dealing with gambling in this or any other
Bill. The important point in regard to wh6-wh6 is that it is not a
game; there is absolutely no sporting chance in it. It is necessary
that we should protect people who are largely ignorant and unable
to protect themselves against the nefarious practices of a lot of the
most finished rascals you can find anywhere in the world. ... my
point is that it is playing on the superstition of ignorant people, and
is not very far removed from obeah, certainly in its implications.
And so I think we are protecting the ordinary man against himself
in bringing forward this Bill... ibidd p75-76).
However, another speaker, the famous Captain Arthur Cipriani, while concur-
ring that whe whe was an "evil" which had to be dealt with, criticized the class
biased nature of the legislation. In this latter respect, he stated that the rich as well
as the poor were involved in the game and that the problem would not be
eradicated if the rich, the real "root of the evil", were not also targeted. He stated:
I agree that something must be done to stop "wh6 wh6" and like
my friends I have a lot of experience of it. But I am going to say
this: that unless some real whole-hearted attempt is made to
stamp out the root of the evil, which is trying to prevent the better
class men from taking part in wh6 wh6, I do not think any good is
going to come of it. It might be that the working man is the chief
offender, but he is not by any means the only offender, as wh6
whe is one of those popular forms of gambling which reaches a
very much higher class than the ordinary working man ibidd p74).
Cipriani's comments on the class bias of the legislation were consistent with his
status as trade union leader, and the champion of the working class, but the irony
is that he had still agreed "that something must be done to stop the game". Thus,
while adopting a working class posture, he was simultaneously agreeing to legisla-
tion aimed principally at the working class. Moreover, Cipriani was very active in
horse racing, the "sport of kings", for he served as President of the Owners and
Trainers Association from 1931-1945 and was President of the Arima Racing
Association from 1935-1944 (Henry 1959, p7). The socio-legal status of this form
of gambling, however, was not viewed as problematic.
However, while there was general agreement over the aims of the amendment,
there was unanimous disagreement over one particular provision embodied in
Clause 4 of the proposed Bill, which had to with the meaning of the expression
"near a place." The particular wording read in part: "All persons assembled at or
near a place where the game of wh6-whe is being conducted shall be deemed to
be assisting at and taking part in a public lottery..." ibidd p72). It was felt that
determining what constituted being "near a place" was too arbitrary and am-
biguous, which could have endangered the innocent and the liberty of the in-
dividual. As a result, the wording was amended to read: "All persons found at or
assembled together in a place where the game of wh6-wh6 is being conducted
shall be deemed to be assisting at and taking part in a public lottery..." (Govern-
ment of Trinidad and Tobago 1933, p12).
On the passage of the Ordinance, one editorial response criticized its perceived
class bias and hypocrisy since it penalized one form of gambling, while others were
permitted. In addition, the argument that "markers" often cheated their clients,
which the Attorney General had used as part of the rationale for the legislation, was
challenged on the grounds that this practice was not unique to whe whe. It was
further argued that the crux of the matter had to do with the fact that the game was
not organized in a manner that was in accordance with what were perceived to be
acceptable British traditions of organizing gambling. From what might be inferred
from the argument, the latter seem to have involved some formal, systematic and
accountable administrative apparatus that regulated the game. As the editor
When a punter wins, said the Acting Attorney General, he is often
told that his stake was too late for investment on that occasion.
The man who acted as go-between has put the profits in his own
pocket. Maybe? But at what gambling game from a state lottery
down to a RACE MEETING is this not possible? Many a man has
gone to the Derby with cash in his pocket given him by confiding
friends to back the favourite for them. He sets out with the best of
intentions but when he gets on the course, he decides to use the
money to back the favourite for himself. If the favourite wins, he
comes home with the tale that he waited till the last moment to get
a better price, and then he could either get nothing at all, or
alternatively he may say that the crowd around the bookies were
so great that he could not get near them in time. It is a trick that has
been worked so often, that it was a shame to trot it out as an
argument against whe whe. There are crooks in every big gamble
but a professional whe whe marker who made a habit of being too
late to put on his client's stakes would soon be out of business
altogether. Let us be frank with ourselves about these anti-gam-
bling laws. The truth is the British conscience revolts against any
form of betting which is not based on some properly organised
event. If whe whe was taken up by the Portland Club, the Football
Association or the Turf Club, laws against it would speedily be-
come dead letters (Trinidad Guardian, 13 March 1932).
The position of the editor contrasts sharply with the virulent, non supportive tone
of 19th century media reaction to the game.
It is important to note that one of the recurring arguments against the game was
that it did not give to all its participants what was variously termed a "sporting
chance," "a fair chance," or "an even break." As far as these critics were concerned
this inherent inequality in the game was at odds with a European derived ethos of
rationality which stressed equality and defined fair play in these terms. Relatedly,
Trotman notes that the basis for the 19th century elite opposition to the game had
to do with the fact that it was incongruent with Victorian "scientific rationality" in its
use of dreams and chance to procure wealth instead of hard work and thrift.
... games like whe-whe, in which the participants used their inter-
pretations of dreams in order to make their wager, defied the
scientific rationality that nineteenth century Victorians worshipped;
it depended instead on chance and luck and reinforced the super-
stitious beliefs of the lower orders. Uncontrolled gambling among
the lower classes therefore encouraged a belief that material
success was possible by luck and not through thrift and steady
work habits (Trotman 1986, 262-263).
However, that non-rational tendency was also historically prevalent in Western
culture through the belief in superstition and magic until challenged by the rise of
rationality in the 17th century (Foucault 1973, 46-76).
There were further amendments to the Gambling Ordinance in the 1930s,
1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, but these had more to do with other forms of
gambling such as horse racing, pool, and pinball machines. The only significant
changes to be noted concerning whe whe had to do with the nature of the penalties
imposed. In the 1960s, fines ranged between $250.00, and $1000.00 while prison
terms ranged from a minimum of three months to a maximum of twelve months
(Government of Trinidad and Tobago 1963, pp207-214). Presently, however, fines
range between $750.00 and $3000.00, while prison sentences range from a
minimum of six months to a maximum of twelve months (Government of Trinidad
and Tobago 1980, pp6-13). In the contemporary period therefore, there has been
a significant increase in the punishment meted out to those caught taking part in
Police Suppression and Involvement
When the game was first brought to the attention of the wider public in the early
19th century, the police were criticized for not taking action against its practice. For
instance, the San Fernando Gazette of 20 November 1880 stated in its editorial
that "... the Police authorities have taken no notice whatever of the evils which have
arisen... out of this attraction". In addition, in 1881, the same media accused the
police of being "silent and apathetic" (San Fernando Gazette, 22 January 1881).
Subsequent to this, however, the police made frequent raids on the major centres
or areas at which the game was played in both the capital Port of Spain and in San
Fernando (San Fernando Gazette, 15 November 1882), which resulted in some
We can congratulate the police beforehand for this additional
enterprise [sic] because the very circumstance that they have
enemies in the camp evinces proof that they have entered into the
crusade against the detestable whe whe (San Fernando Gazette,
5 August 1882).
However, while they were commended, they were also condemned for their
apparent involvement in the game, which is implicitly suggested in the quotation
above. One commentator described their involvement as the "cats" acting "in
concert with the rats" (San Fernando Gazette, 29 July 1882). And more elaborate-
ly, one newspaper editorialised:
We have been apprized [sic] on very reliable authority that the
smouldering embers of the Whe whe rise into a blaze at No. 21
High Street where the 'marks' continue to be taken sometimes to
the late hour to the disturbance of the public peace and the
demoralization of the police, many of whose members indulge
freely and in the open daylight in the forbidden practice. We
cannot expect the entire removal of the whe whe so long as the
police exertions that have been so praiseworthily employed in that
direction should be thwarted by the counteraction of the members
of their own body (San Fernando Gazette, 23 October 1882).
In addition, the police were known to have protected "whe whe turfs" in return
for financial rewards. In this respect for instance, it has been noted that
Often a relationship develops whereby some officers allow the
presence of turfs within communities for monetary gain. This is
done through illegal protection rackets (against police raids or
prior notification of upcoming raids) (Scott 1992, p25).
A mutually beneficial relationship was thus known to exist between the police,
whe whe participants and the community.
As a result of the paucity of official records, it was impossible to obtain neces-
sary information in relation to arrests and court convictions of whe whe participants,
at any time and overtime, outside of that provided by newspaper reports. Based on
the latter source, it was found that between 1963 and 1966, there were nine
reported arrests, while between the period 1972-1980, there were thirty nine
arrests (Scott 1992, p53). From this, one can safely state that police raids on whe
whe have continued up to modern day, but the game has survived, whether aided
by police collaboration or not.
The Movement to Decriminalize
The first known and reported calls to have the game legalized were made in the
late 1960s and mid 1970s. These calls were made by members of the public
through letters to the newspapers (Scott 1992, 16). In one reported instance, a
small group of unemployed individuals formed a delegation to the media to call for
the legalization of the game, but their action bore no fruitful results. However,
towards the end of the 1980s and at the beginning of the 1990s, there were official
calls to legalize the game. One Independent Senator and social scientist argued: "If
horse racing is permissible, and if we are talking about introducing dog racing in
this country... then I fail to see why whe whe is viewed as a criminal activity"
(Trinidad Express, 31 May 1989). In addition, one Government Minister cited both
cultural and economic reasons for the legalization of the game. For instance, it was
argued the game was "indigenous", represented a part of the "natural heritage",
(sic) and could have brought economic benefits through the generation of employ-
ment and revenue from taxation (Trinidad Express, 15 July 1989). The then
Minister of Trade and Industry also responded favourably to the idea of having the
game legalized. Subsequently, in 1991, the National Lotteries Control Board
(NLCB), the Government agency with responsibility for running the existing nation-
al lottery, submitted proposals to the Government to have the game legalized
(Scott 1992, p3). However, the then Government was voted out of office before any
action could be taken to legalize the game.
In March 1994, over two years since the first set of proposals were submitted,
the new Government took a course of legal action which to many meant that the
game was finally legalized. The decision was met with strong opposition in certain
quarters, and it was to have significant consequences for the way in which the
game was traditionally played and organized.
Reaction to Legalization
The putative legalization of the game was met with mixed reaction on moral,
religious and economic grounds. Interestingly, the opposition to this decision was
based on much the same reasons as those advanced by the elites in the 19th
century and early 20th century who clamoured for its prohibition.
The religious zealots and moralists saw the game as representing the incarna-
tion of the devil or the Anti-Christ himself which not only endangered the "moral
fibre" of the society, but our very souls. It was therefore, a veritable "abomination"
to the Lord. One Pastor lamented thus:
Where have all the moral, God fearing people of our land gone?
Where is the voice of the priest or parson himself against this
iniquitous plague of gambling that has so subtly invaded our land?
We have become a land of gamblers- this whole land. How sad.
Unwittingly, you are hooked up with the image of the Antichrist, the
"Mark of the Beast"- 666. Add the numbers 1 to 36 in sequential
order and see what you come up with. This is no coincidence
(Trinidad Express, 4 August 1994).
As if to suggest that gambling represented a primitive form of accumulation,
another religious spokesman argued that the game encouraged a get rich quick
mentality which went contrary to the teachings of God. He declared:
First of all, the Lord desires that we should gain wealth by means
of our diligent work. It is the labour of our hand that he abundantly
blesses and multiplies.... However, we must not be "greedy of
filthy lucre"... which means that we are not to be greedy of the
dirty, gambling money. This is an abomination in the eyes of the
Lord. Spiritually speaking, "the love of money is the root of all
evil... Play whe and Lotto are "short-cuts" to getting wealthy (The
Vision, February 1995).
In relation to the economic factors, the business community was divided over
the effects which the game was having on business activity. On the one hand, there
were those entrepreneurs in both the retail and manufacturing sectors who argued
that the introduction of the game had impacted negatively on their business by
decreasing sales, profits and levels of employment. One major conglomerate
stated in its annual report for 1994 that :
During the year, competition for consumer discretionary spending
was greatly intensified by the introduction of electronic gambling
by the State, which has been estimated to capture at least $600
million per year. This has contributed to an overall decline in
alcoholic beverage sales (Angostura 1994, p8).
It was further noted that the pre-tax profit of the company in question had fallen
from $60.3 million in 1993 to $36.6 million in 1994 ibidd), the year in which the game
was introduced. The President of the Chamber of Commerce also noted:
Small entrepreneurs have felt the pinch. Alcohol and cigarettes
are the first to suffer. People with already little amounts of money
to splurge on themselves, instead of buying an extra drink or shirt
will play the Lotto. You only have to look at the play whe counters
and see the massive lines of people. They are not spending on
something else (Trinidad Express, 13 March 1995).
One major fabric merchant laid off 135 of his workers, which he attributed to the
pernicious effects of the game (Trinidad Express, 21 March 1995). On the other
hand, some entrepreneurs argued that installing machines at their business places
resulted in attracting more customers, increased sales and the hiring of more staff
to deal with the increased demand for the games (Trinidad Express, 17 April 1995).
Relatedly, it was claimed the games enabled them "to meet their bill payments" and
even save them from closure (Trinidad Express, 10 July 1995). Those for whom
the games had positive effects argued further that the decline in sales and profits
attributed to the games had started long before their introduction and was linked
more to the increased cost of living and decline in real incomes throughout the
economy (Trinidad Express, 17 April 1995). There was also strong opposition from
members of the parliamentary opposition and Independent Senators on similar
economic, social and moral grounds (Newsday, 8 December 1994, Trinidad Guar-
dian, 20 December 1994). The general protests, however, from the contemporary
elites did not reverse the decision of the State.
Whe Whe and the State and the State of Whe Whe
It is important to note that in order to create the legal framework for the
operation of the game, the Government did not amend or repeal the Gambling and
Betting Act as it applied to whe whe. Instead, the government amended the
National Lotteries Control Act of 1968 in order to permit the establishment of
"on-line lotteries", which are lotteries that are computer operated (Government of
Trinidad and Tobago 1994, p98). Since whe whe, by definition and historically,
was a form of lottery, it fell within the ambit of the new legislation. As a means of
conveying the idea that the traditional version of the game was not legalized and
relatedly, as a means of distinguishing the two, the State sanctioned version of the
game has been termed play whe as opposed to whe whe. Herein lies the conten-
tion thus that the putative legalization of the game is ambiguous or mythical, for
while it is legal to play the former, it remains illegal to play the latter, since it is still
outlawed. Thus while supposedly decriminalizing the game, it remains criminal-
ized. Perhaps this helps prove the well known axiom that the more things change,
the more they do not change at all.
The action of the state can be viewed as representing the exercise of a positive
form of power which relates to both the character of control and the reconstituted
character of the game. In respect of the former, the state no longer exercises
control through complete repression for it now "enables" or "incites" individuals, in
a Foucauldian sense, to play the game under a veil of legality, while retaining
absolute control over its operations. In other words, the message of the state is:
"OK, you may play the game but subject to my control and rules." However, the
elaboration of this positive form of power is not complete, for the exercise of state
power is still negatively manifested in the continued existence of laws which
prohibit and prosecute those who are involved in whe whe. The fact that power
remains part-positive and part-negative is merely a reflection of the game's part-
legal, part-illegal character.
In creating the legislative framework for the establishment of the game, the
state was creating the basis for its own involvement in the game as owner and
manager. As a result, it has become the biggest "whe whe banker" in the country
through the NLCB which is the state agency responsible for controlling and ad-
ministering the legal game throughout the country. In the first six months of its
operations in 1994, the State reportedly obtained over 70 million dollars (TT) in
revenues from this game and the national Lotto (Trinidad Express, 26 January
In relation to the organization of the game itself in its new character, play whe
has several major structural and procedural differences from its traditional counter-
part. One of the most significant and striking differences is the computerization of
the system of betting as bets are now entered in computer driven machines, which
are all networked and hooked up to a central computer in the offices of the NLCB.
Four hundred and seventy seven (477) of these machines presently exist across
the country and the number has been projected to increase further (Trinidad
Guardian, 5 September 1995) since the introduction of play whe in July 1994. The
recipients of these machines, or agents as they are called, receive a commission
of six per cent on the total amount wagered (Government of Trinidad and Tobago
1994, p98). In a real sense therefore, these agents can be seen as the contem-
porary "touts" or intermediaries between the punters and the State "banker," the
NLCB. In relation to the actual betting process, while punters can give their "marks"
verbally to the machine operators, there also exist the preferred computer for-
matted "lists" or "tickets" on which "marks" and the amount of the wager are first
entered, then given to the machine operator. However, this modern version of a
"ticket" comes pre-packaged for it is made up of three panels, with each panel
containing the numbers 1 to 36 and six betting categories: $1.00, $2.00, $5.00,
$10.00, $20.00, $25.00, $50.00 and $100.00. The amount punters can bet is
unlimited. The betting odds are presently fixed at $24.00 to $1.00, which contrasts
with the odds in the traditional game of $30.00 to $1.00. There are two draws per
day: the first takes place at 1.00 pm, while the second, which formerly took place at
6.30 pm, was changed to 8.30 pm in December 1995. A novel feature of the
computer "tickets" system is that it allows for advanced betting. This means that
one can place bets for Friday's draws as early as Monday and one can also place
bets on the 8.30 pm draw as early as 1.00 pm on the same day.
The selection of the winning numbers is also machine or electronically deter-
mined, in random fashion, and the process is broadcast live on television. Like the
traditional game, there are two draws per day but both the times at which they take
place and the number of days the game is played per week differ. In relation to the
former, the two draws in play whe take place at 1.00 pm and 8.30 pm, while in the
traditional game the corresponding times were 12 noon and 4.00 pm. And, in
respect of the number of draws, while whe whe is played seven days per week,
play whe is played six days per week excluding Sundays. Another important area
of difference relates to "deadmarks". In play whe, these do not exist which is
consistent with the new game's random character. As a result, the probability
always exists that the same "mark" can be played twice in one day, which has
Notwithstanding these differences, there are still certain important similarities
between the two games. Apart from the number of draws per day, these include the
total number of marks upon which the game is based (36); the symbols and
representations of the various "marks" have been retained, and the methods by
which punters select their "marks" remain essentially the same. The latter refer to
the use of dreams, line and body charts, and general superstition.
In respect of the reconstituted character of the game, the related processes of
computerization/mechanization, and randomization (every number has an equal
chance of being played at each draw) have had a negative impact upon (a)
traditional punter-banker relations, (b) the selection of "marks" and (c) the very
legitimacy of the new version of the game. In respect of computerization, this has
served to depersonalize the banker and thereby impersonalize punter/banker
relations, since a machine now selects the "marks" and not a person. This decisive
transformation in the nature of the interaction between the former main players has
given play whe a very individualized character. Relatedly, randomization has
replaced the previous non-rational method of "bussing the mark." Both these
processes, together with the more formalized, bureaucratic organization of the
game, combine to negate the telepathic character of relations which previously
existed between punter and banker in the selection of "marks".
As a punter myself, and since I reside in the North-East and in the deep South
(i.e. Point Fortin), I have been able to get a sense of punters' feelings towards the
new game. In this regard, a frequent complaint is that dreams are not as effective
in predicting the winning "marks" with the "computer banker" as they were with the
human banker. In the traditional game, the punter normally tried to read the mind
of the banker in choosing "marks", an activity which was facilitated by some
familiarity with his methods of playing and the degree of cultural affinity they both
shared living in the same communal environment. However, such experiential
calculability has been jettisoned in the new game. In addition, the features of the
new game have also served to undermine or call into question the utility or
effectiveness of dreams and other interpretive methods of selecting "marks" since
there is no homogenized correspondence between human and machine, as there
is between human (punter) and human (banker). In assuming direct control of the
game thus, the state has reconstituted its character along supposedly egalitarian
(random), modern computerisedd) lines which has inevitably meant its transforma-
tion into a more rational, impersonal and individualized cultural activity.
However, the supposed randomness of play whe has come into question as a
result of the tendency for certain numbers to be played twice per day, and more
regularly or less regularly than others overtime. This has raised suspicion over the
integrity and utility of the machine method (Trinidad Guardian, 2 November 1995;
Trinidad Express, 2 November 1995). In the traditional game, this suspicion was
mitigated or minimized by the existence of a built in mechanism to avoid one
number being played twice per day. This built in mechanism was the "dead mark",
which ensured that once a number was played at the first draw, it could not be
replayed at the second draw. In play whe, however, such a mechanism does not
and cannot exist due to its random character. Although the scientific rationality
which underpins play whe has challenged the non-random, non-rational method of
whe whe and has gained some ascendancy over it by replacing the human banker
with a "computer banker", this process is neither complete nor absolute. This
derives from the fact that (a) the non-rational methods are still used by punters in
play whe, although their effectiveness remains in question, (b) the traditional game
is still played and (c) many take part in both versions of the game. However, the
competition provided by the play whe has caused a decline in the number of clients
of the traditional "bankers", since they find it safer to play the legal game. In this
respect, one banker has been quoted thus:
Too much pressure from the machine these days. People are not
coming out to play when they have to evade the police to play an
illegal game when they can walk across the street and play a mark
without any hassle (Trinidad Guardian, 29 October 1995).
It is ironic that, while criminalization historically failed to destroy the traditional
game, non-criminalization, through the introduction of play whe, may be its
nemesis. Thus where negative power failed, positive power threatens to succeed.
1 .This legislation was also effected in order to facilitate the introduction of a national
Lotto. This game also came under attack on moral and economic grounds.
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APPENDIX I: WHE WHE MARKS, PARTNERS, SPIRITS
Mark Partner Spirit
1. Centipede 5 4
2. Oldlady 24 --
3. Carriage 19 18
4. Deadman 35 --
5. Parson Man 1 4
6. Belly 15 --
7. Hog 13 --
8. Tiger 26 12
9. Cattle 29 33
10. Monkey 23 28
11. Corbeau 2 28
12. King 8 26
13. Crapaud 17 --
14. Money 25 --
15. Sick Woman 19 6
16. Jammette 17 --
17. Pigeon 16
18. Waterboat 19 --
19. Horse 15 3
20. Dog 22 --
21. Mouth 23
22. Rat 20
23. Big House 28 21
24. Queen 2 --
25. Morocoy 11 14
26. Fowl 8 27
27. Little Snake 30 26
28. Red Fish 23 10
29. Opium Man 9 33
30. House Cat 27 18
31. Parson's Wife 34 --
32. Shrimp 31
33. Spider 29
34. Blindman 31
35. Big Snake 4 --
36. Donkey 34 11
Source: National Lotteries Control Board 1995
VIOLENCE BETWEEN SPOUSES IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO:
A RESEARCH NOTE
Roanna Gopaul and Maureen Cain
Domestic violence can be described as "any act committed within the family by
one of its members which seriously impairs the life, body, psychological well being
or liberty of another family member" (Antony and Miller, 1986 in UNECLAC,
1992:7). Such acts may include violence between spouses, child abuse, abuse of
parents and or grandparents by children, senior abuse and sibling abuse. Here we
consider only violence within long term heterosexual partnerships, where more
data are available.
The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (U.N., 1993,
Article 1) defines violence against women as "any act of gender-based violence
that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or
suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation
of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life." Violence against women
was placed on the agenda at the first United Nations conference on women held in
Mexico City in 1975 and continued to be a major focal point at the Fourth World
Conference on Women held in Beijing, China in September 1995.
In this paper we attempt to answer for Trinidad and Tobago some key questions
concerning spousal violence. What is the incidence of violence between spouses?
And who are the parties to violence, both as victims and offenders: what is their
ethnicity, their age, their economic situation, their family structure? These ques-
tions could only be adequately addressed by a full scale survey such as Danns and
Parsad carried out in Guyana (1989), ideally following detailed discussions with
women (and maybe men too) so that survey questions could be formulated using
conceptions of abusive experiences from the perspective of the weaker party,
rather as Kelly (1988) has done for the UK. Alternatively, as these data from the
Caribbean suggest, deviant case analyses of successful resistance by women, or
self discipline by men whose background makes them likely abusers, could be
Such work has not yet been attempted in Trinidad and Tobago. Instead we try
to answer the questions using data from official records and from a range of NGO's
which offer assistance to victims of family violence. In the Caribbean as elsewhere
*nost victims of family violence do not report the matter to the police; most do not
seek assistance from any other agency (Danns, 1988; Creque, 1994). Dobash and
Dobash (1979, p164) estimated that in the UK less than 2% of incidents of violence
against wives were reported to the police. Perhaps because of more widespread
discussion in the United States, the National Crime Survey estimated that only 48%
3f domestic violence cases go unreported, a figure similar to that for thefts (Langan
and Innes 1986, pl, cited in Dobash and Dobash 1992 at p4). Danns and Parsad
:1989) unfortunately, do not present the official data with which their survey returns
wouldd be contrasted to form a credible Caribbean estimate of under reporting.
Ethnic Group of Adult DomesticViolence Victims and Agency at Which
% % % % % % Number of
African East Indian Mixed 6 Chinese Caucasian Unknown Clients
Rape 63 25 11 1 0 0 1347
Halfway 32 55 10 0 0 3 1038
Shelter for Unknown 80 Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Legal Aid 81 18 838
The biased impressions arising from under-reporting in Trinidad and Tobago
nay be compounded by multiple reporting. A victim going to the hospital may be
referred to any or all of the police, the shelter, and the courts, and recorded as a
separate case in each instance. And in addition to all these difficulties there is the
problem of variable categorisation. Different organizations use different proce-
lures and forms for recording, there exist no standard definitions of types of
violence and the information collected in each agency is different. While all record
the sex and ethnicity of victims, occupation and even the victim's address are
rather rarely recorded. So, we have had to make do.
The extent of under-reporting is not likely to be constant, and yet we have no
way of knowing where the biases are: do the younger seek help more than the
older or vice versa; the urban more than the rural, and so on? Or is it a more
complex matter of knowledge networks? This is why agency data giving charac-
teristics of their clients cannot be used to describe the national picture, as if those
seeking help were typical of the general run of victims. On the other hand, and in
the age old social science tradition, while we cannot use agency data to say what
victims are like, we have tried to use them to say what victims are not like, that is,
to challenge a range of stereotypes and popular myths, or to say these images may
stand for the time being.
In the discussion below we deal first with the incidence of violence against
adults, and then with the victims' characteristics.
How much conjugal violence is there?
Danns' and Parsad's (1989 p95) results show that an astonishing two thirds of
Guyanese women "involved in conjugal unions...in randomly selected samples
from communities across Guyana, have reported experiencing marital violence".
This points to the possibility of a very high incidence also in Trinidad and Tobago,
where the history of late settlement and the ethnic structure are similar.
Data gathered by the Halfway House in south Trinidad in 1990 suggest that one
woman in three half as many as in Guyana, may have been victimised.
Statistics compiled by Creque (1994, p10) and reproduced here (Table 1)
reveal 1702 intra domestic offences reported to the police in 1992, of which 1621
may be presumed to have had adult victims. The adult population aged 20 and
over was 735296 in that year, giving a rate of victimisation of 2.2 per thousand. If
the victimised population in the same age group had been entirely female the rate
would be 4.42 per thousand. This compares with a rate of 4.06 per thousand of
both sexes aged 20 and over for reported larcenies, 5.14 per thousand for reported
robberies, 10.8 per thousand for reported break-ins and burglaries, and 2.68 per
thousand for all reported crimes against the person. We do not yet know the extent
of under reporting for the different types of crime, but the data do suggest that if
most of the adult victims of domestic violence are women, and if there is indeed
more under-reporting in cases of domestic violence, then offences of this type are
more frequent than other crimes against the person, and as common as most other
In sum, then, we cannot on the basis of these data say how much violence
against adults takes place in the homes of Trinidad and Tobago, but we can
demonstrate that the problem is a serious one which is likely to be widespread.
Who are the victims?
The stories told even in the scientific literature about wife abuse and domestic
violence generally promulgate, it seems, as many myths as valid accounts. There
is a marked tendency to quote and re quote from assertive perorations, without
checking the evidence upon which the original quotation was based. All too often
such evidence has involved reading the data backwards, that is, constructing
general theories of victimisation based on the characteristics of the few reported
cases or of those seeking help. Our own data share the bias inherent in any study
of those seeking help, as opposed to all victims, and therefore we will not attempt
to generalise from them. However, we will use these limited data from the help
agencies, as well as the systematic data collected by Danns and Parsad (op cit) to
question some of the received wisdom about domestic violence. In this way false
'cures' based on false presumptions about the phenomenon can be avoided, and
the need for more systematic research can be demonstrated. This need is espe-
cially great in the Caribbean, where sex differences are gendered in a different way
from the Anglo-Saxon countries where so much of the research has been
produced, and where family structures are not only 'different' in this limited sense,
but also very varied. Here then is the list of myths and realities that we have
managed to identify.
Domestic violence is primarily a problem for East Indian families OR domestic
violence is primarily a problem in families of African descent
There is no evidence of ethnic differences in rates of domestic violence.
Gopaul, Morgan, and Reddock (1994) have explained violence in East Indian
families in Trinidad as the result of a specific colonial experience, and Basmat
Shiw-Parsad (1988, p3) originally used an explanation specific to Guyanese East
Indian culture.to explain the high,rates of wife violence (83:100) which her survey
found. However, when the same questions were put to a sample of women of
African descent, although the rates of violence reported were 66:100, the frequen-
cy of victimisation per woman was higher. Neither ethnic group therefore, was
markedly better off (Danns and Parsad, 1989, pp71 and 95). Indeed, as Rohlehr
(1988) has noted, the 'right' of men to 'discipline' their partners by means of
physical violence emerges clearly from an analysis of lyrics in the primarily African
popular art form of calypso. One example is the calypso "Treat 'Em Rough",
remade by the Mighty Sparrow in the 1970s, which includes the verse
Every now and then cuff dem down
They'll love you long and they'll love you strong
Black up their eye, bruise up their knee,
Then they'll love you eternally (Rohlehr, 1990, p264).
More recent calypsos reflect the beginning of women's resistance to abuse,
notably Singing Francine's "Runaway" advising women to leave oppressive situa-
tions, as even animals do (1976); and Singing Sandra's "Die with my dignity",
offering women an alternative to accepting sexual harassment (1987).
Data from the agencies support the view that conjugal and familial violence is
cross-ethnic. The Rape Crisis Centre in north Trinidad reported that in 1991 63%
of clients were of African descent, 25% of East Indian descent, 11% mixed and 2%
Chinese. The Shelter for Battered Women in Port of Spain, however, reported
verbally that 80% of the cases of domestic violence coming into the shelter were
from East Indian homes. The Halfway House in south Trinidad reported a majority
of residents of East Indian descent, whereas the government's Legal Aid and
Advisory Authority in Port of Spain reported a predominance of Africans. By and
large these differences appear to be explicable in terms of the demographic
structure of the catchment area (the Shelter for Battered Women being the excep-
For all the uncertainties of the data, they do clearly contradict the myth that
domestic violence happens in one ethnic group only. And as for the absence of
Caucasian victims a) Caucasians constituted only 0.6% of the population at the
1990 census; b) they are typically better off, less likely to need either legal aid or
free accommodation, and therefore to show in our statistics. However, it is unlikely
that their domestic habits are violence free in Trinidad and Tobago, when we have
so many studies indicating the prevalence of domestic violence in Caucasian
families in the West. Wife abuse may safely be described as a cross-ethnic
phenomenon in Trinidad and Tobago.
Education and social class: do the poor beat more?
A surprising and encouraging finding of the Danns and Parsad study (1989)
was that in Guyana education plays a significant part in the inhibition of violence
against female spouses (the respondents) for both East Indian and African
couples. While the educational level of both partners made a difference, a scan of
the data suggests that, for East Indian families at least, the educational level
attained by the female partner made slightly more difference than the attainment of
the male partner ibidd. p.52, Table 13). For both groups, however "ninety-one
percent of female partners who have only primary education experienced violence"
ibidd, p.78), that is to say, experienced at least occasional violence. In none of the
East Indian couples where even one of the parties had tertiary education was
violence experienced "often" or "sometimes" the two categories of greatest
frequency ibidd, p52, Table 13). On the other hand, educational achievement did
not inhibit occasional violence. There is no sure solution.
When occupation is considered it seems that the male partner's job makes
more difference than the women's job. Moreover, occupation has less effect on
levels of domestic violence than education. Thus while the 'wives' of all the
unemployed male partners experienced violence sometimes, 60% of the 'wives' of
men with "administrative and professional" jobs experienced violence at least
occasionally, and one in five of them more frequently than that ibidd, p53, Table 14).
Domestic violence in Guyana, then, appears to be a cross-class phenomenon,
which is capable of being inhibited when female partners in particular have higher
Our own data for Trinidad do not follow this pattern, although whether this
represents a bias of the referrals to the Rape Crisis Centre North or the actual
experience of couples we cannot say. Data on education were not collected by any
other agency, and at the Halfway House 69% of the clients in 1991 had a
secondary education, suggesting higher victimisation in the better educated group.
The finding may also reflect greater numbers in secondary education than in
None of the agencies kept the kind of occupational data that would make
possible a comparison with the Guyanese results.
More research is plainly needed in relation to educational attainment as an
inhibitor of violence, not just to see if the Guyanese findings hold, but also to
explore the ways in which the effect is achieved and how it may be encouraged.
We also need to calculate whether occupation has an impact in its own right or only
via the mediation of education. The jury remains out on the class question.
Marital status: does a wedding offer protection?
The Guyanese data (Danns and Parsad, 1989, p47) indicate that women run a
more or less equally high risk of violence from their partner whether they live in a
common-law, a 'visiting', or a legal (marriage) partnership. Among East Indian
respondents 25.5% of those legally married had violent experiences "often" and
31.6% had them "sometimes", whereas among those in common law relationships
the violent experiences were slightly fewer: 22.2% "often" and 27.8% "some-
times". None the less, even though the slightly better position of common law
wives is something of a surprise, the similarity is more impressive than the dif-
ference, ibidd, p47, Table 9). However, among the African respondents it appears
that the legally married may be less vulnerable than those in common law or
visiting relationships. For both ethnic groups the differences are extremely small
and unlikely to be statistically significant ibidd, p75). The Guyanese data show that
the form of the union does little or nothing to reduce the risk of violence.
Only the Legal Aid and Advisory Authority collected data on the marital status of
those seeking legal aid in relation to family violence for Trinidad and Tobago. 72%
of the 77 claimants for whom data are supplied in 1992 were married, while the
remaining 28% were in common law relationships. It will be remembered that the
total number of claimants to this agency was 83. Nothing is known about the
marital status of the other six claimants. Once again, the unknown biases in the
Trinidad data limit their value. We believe, for example, that people in common law
marriages often do not seek legal recourse because they do not know how the law
applies to them. But also once again, there is enough evidence here, in spite of the
limitations of the data, to challenge the myth that those in legal marriages are better
protected than those in other kinds of partnership, whether in Guyana or in
Childhood experiences are played out in adulthood
The belief that those who have been beaten beat, that childhood victimisation
leads to adult bullying, is very widespread, but rather ill-substantiated. This is
because studies of victims often cannot tell us much about the childhood experien-
ces of perpetrators, and because there have been no control studies of the
childhood experiences of non-violent spouses. It is a great merit of the Danns and
Parsad study (op cit) that it attempts to address both questions (although it is not
clear whether perpetrators were actually interviewed, or simply reported on by their
Although in this instance we have no comparable data for Trinidad, we include
the Danns and Parsad findings again here, because they direct our attention to
possibilities for change. The data indicate that the story that the beaten will grow
up to beat is both true and untrue, and in a case like this the exceptions are
important. They, more than the typical cases, may show us how we can "break the
cycle of violence" (UNICEF and Ministry of Social Development and Family Ser-
The Danns and Parsad data do indeed show a relationship between male
partners' childhood experiences of violence and the amount of violence reported by
their female partners. In African-West-Indian couples males experiencing violence
"often" as children were all reported to have beaten their partners at least once; half
of them used violence "often", 36.4% "sometimes" and 13.6 of "hardly ever". On
the other hand, only a fifth of those never experiencing violence as children were
reported as never having been violent to their female partners. For the 80% never
experiencing violence, their own violence against their women was by and large
infrequent, but it was remembered and reported to the research team (Danns and
Parsad, 1989 Table 25 at p83). There is a lot of violence not accounted for by
perpetrators' childhood experiences.
The pattern for East Indian males was less dramatic, for not quite all those
experiencing violence in childhood were reported as being violent to their female
partners. 3.2% of them were never violent themselves despite their childhood
experiences. The downside of this search for exceptions is that in these East
Indian couples 39.3% of the men who had never experienced violence in childhood
ended up as quite frequent users of violence (in the "often" or "sometimes"
categories used by the authors), and 26.9% had used violence at least once
What can be said about all this is that there is a relationship but not a directly
causal one. Quite a lot of men who have never had violent experiences end up
being violent themselves. Why? And a few men not only survive violent
childhoods, but do so without becoming violent themselves. Table 2 gives the
Frequency of Violence against Female Partners by Perpetrators' Experien-
ces of Violence as Children
Male Perpetrators' Experiences of Violence
Frequency of Often Sometimes Hardly Ever Never
violence reported % % % % % % % %
by female partners African Eastlndian African EastIndian African Eastlndian African EastIndian
Often 50.0 55.2 15.8 16.7 16.7 16.7 19.i
Sometimes 36.4 31.3 34.2 40.3 20.0 13.3 10.0 20.2
Hardly ever 13.6 10.3 34.2 20.0 40.0 46.7 70.0 26.9
Never 3.2 15.8 23.0 23.3 13.3 20.0 34.8
(Taken from Danns and Parsad 1989 Table 25, page 83 and Table 16 page 56. Total sample sizes
100 (African descent) and 115 (East Indian descent). Percentage distributions only in the original g3
We need to identify these non-violent survivors wherever we can and record
their life stories, because from them we can learn. Parsad (1988, p31) notes that
the significant proportion of men who experienced (or even simply witnessed)
violence as children but never hit their own partners may have been led by their
own experience to abhor rather than to replicate violence. How?
Do dominant women challenge men to dominate?
Danns and Parsad ibidd., p55 and p80) present complex analyses indicating
that in households characterized by Joint decision making violence is less frequent.
This appears to make more difference than which party decides, when only one of
the couple does. Although the relationship is not so strong, the pattern appears to
be the same for heads of household, with violence against women being lowest
where headship is described as joint, and roughly the same for male and female
In Trinidad, the Halfway House reports that roughly three quarters of their
clients describe themselves as housewives, the actual proportion ranging from
67.5% to 80% over the years. This may be as much a function of the resources
available to women as a reflection of a general pattern. None the less, in both
societies the data available call into question the emerging myth that men reassert
themselves by means of violent behaviour towards strong or 'independent'
We would like to draw the lesson that independence alone will not change the
woman's situation one way or the other: the negotiation of a practical equality,
transcending the question "who's in charge" seems to be what makes the dif-
ference (see also Mohammed, 1994). While this interpretation goes a little beyond
the data available, it is not contradicted by them, and again points a direction where
in depths research could yield really practical strategies, and even solutions.
Urban violence, rural idyll?
Only the data from Trinidad address this question. The Rape Crisis Centre
North gives figures indicating catchment area, but their zoning does not correspond
to the administrative counties in terms of which census data are collected. We
have therefore used the reports of domestic violence by police division in 1991
(adult and juvenile offences) to calculate a rate. The measure is rough and ready,
as it is not known what reported events the police include in their statistics. The
population base used is the 1990 Census. The results are set out in Table 3.
Rates of Domestic Violence Offences Reported to the Police in 1991 (in-
cluding offences against both adults and juveniles) per 1000 population
St George Victoria and Caroni and St.Patrick Nariva/ Tobago
with Arima San Chacguanas and Mayaro with
and Port of Fernando Pt.Fortin St.David/ St
Total 463,478 224,212 168,831 131,114 92,443 45,050
Rate of 0.94 0.72 0.89 0.98 0.28 0.22
Female 227,628 111,930 84,899 66,420 47,490 22,567
Rate per 1.91 1.44 1.34 1.93 0.55 0.44
*The total number of victims is used in the calculation.
The data are not subdivided by sex
The two areas with the lowest population do have the lowest rates of domestic
violence matters reported to the police, but the trend is not continuous. Moreover,
the explanations may vary, from difficulty of reporting to greater reluctance to
report, from variations in police practice to stronger social controls in smaller
Whatever the explanation, the tale of the rural idyll must remain a possible
candidate for truth.
Sex: Is Family Violence Gendered?
Violence between sexual partners is gendered, that is to say, it is not a
phenomenon which is distributed equally between the two sexes, but rather a
patterned one which also, as we have seen, varies according to different social
circumstances. The characteristic of intra-familial and conjugal violence which first
came to light was its gendered nature. Western women got together to complain
about it and so to put it on the political agenda, because in the west women are far
and away the main adult victims of intra-familial and conjugal violence, and men
are far and away the main perpetrators. Even as we are becoming aware that adult
men are sometimes victims too, the overwhelmingly gendered nature of intra
familial and conjugal violence has never been challenged: the typical pattern in the
west is man on woman.
Danns and Parsad's study did not deal with this question, since only women
were interviewed. In the Trinidad data, 7% of the Rape Crisis Centre (North)
clients were men, but as the Centre also counsels perpetrators this does not really
answer the current question. Four of the clients of the Legal Aid and Advisory
Authority were men (4.9%). 75 women were victims of violence at the hands of
their husbands or partners, including 70 cases of physical violence, three of
harassment, and two of verbal threats. In the remaining four cases, two involved
women victimised by their sons and two children abused by their fathers (N83).
Another indicator as to the non-reciprocal nature of intra familial and conjugal
violence is the fact that in Trinidad and Tobago over a quarter of the men on death
row in 1994 had been charged with killing their wives or girlfriends (Gopaul,
Morgan, and Reddock, 1994, p57).
The pattern is the internationally common one of female victimisation and male
perpetration with some increasingly recognized exceptions as men in their turn
gather the courage to 'come out' as victims, and resist.
Cultures of violence?
Danns and Parsad's findings are startling. In the East Indian sample 83% of the
women (99 of 120 or 1:1.2) "reported being hit by their male partners" ibidd, p42).
In the African sample "two out of every three Black women in the society are
victims of violence", or 1:1.5 ibidd, p.71), and the frequency of violent attacks per
victim is greater amongst the Black women victimised although the incidence is
lower ibidd, p.95). They contrast their results with estimates of 1:6 women vic-
timised in the United States and 1:10 in Canada ibidd, p95). Danns and Parsad
relate these reported high levels of conjugal violence to the unique histories of the
Caribbean nations, histories which included the
"decimation of indigenous tribes, successive waves of human
migration, the geographical displacement of both coloniser and
slave populations, the institutionalized violence of slavery, and the
brutal indentureship of the nineteenth century" (Gopaul, Morgan,
and Reddock, 1994, pl; see also Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin,
1989; James, 1963/1989).
Genocide and ethnocide (cultural destruction) on a grand scale were attempted
in this region. Moreover, these colonial strategies penetrated the very heart of the
family as children were sold away from their mothers, fathers from their children
and their wives, women from their homes and their communities. All this makes
the evidence of resistance by some women, self discipline by some men the more
remarkable. These people are living proof that no one is pre-destined by their
history, though we may need to help each other to transcend it. Seen in this light
those couples who sought not to dominate each other but to share decision
making, that three per cent of often beaten men who did not beat, all become
heroes. The task is to find these unsung heroines and heroes of the people, to
uncover their struggles, so that they can help guide us towards a non-violent future.
This excursion through the minefield of agency statistics, coupled with a new
look at the seminal victimisation studies carried out by Ken Danns and Basmat
Parsad (1988; 1989) has enabled us to scotch a few myths about family violence,
to qualify some others, and to raise a number of research questions where the
stories told about violence have stood up at least to this very provisional scrutiny.
i)We have demonstrated that conjugal violence is not a rare occur-
rence, even on this basis of reported instances, but as common
as, say, theft.
ii)We have demonstrated that conjugal violence in the Caribbean
is cross ethnic and cross occupation.
iii)ln Guyana violence clearly decreased with the level of educa-
tional attainment of each partner and particularly with the level of
the woman's achievement. This may not be so in Trinidad and
iv)Conjugal status made very little difference to the incidence of
violence, although in Guyana East Indian women were slightly
less vulnerable if they were in common law relationships, whereas
African women were slightly less vulnerable if legally married.
(v)The childhood experiences of violence by male partners in-
fluenced the amount of violence, but there were exceptions: a few
childhood victims were not violent, and a considerable number of
men not beaten in childhood did grow up to be violent to their
vi)There was no evidence that 'strong' women were more vic-
timised, neither were they less victimised. Rather joint decision
making was related to non violence.
vii) There was some evidence that areas with smaller populations
were less violent.
viii)There was evidence that violence between spouses is
gendered, with men being the main perpetrators and women the
It cannot be proved that a somewhat higher rate of spouse victimisation than
has been found elsewhere is connected with a violent historical past, but the
suggestion is plausible. We have argued that this is not a necessary cause of
violence. A careful study is needed of the exceptional cases, of those individuals,
couples and families who transcend this cultural baggage, sometimes by educa-
tion, sometimes by negotiation, and sometimes by an act of will in the face of strong
prognoses to the contrary. These are the heroines and heroes of the region who
offer hope of an alternative future.
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Tobago from 1991 to 1993. Trinidad and Tobago Coalition Against
Danns, G. (1988) 'Domestic Violence within Black Families: A Study of Wife Abuse
in Guyana'. Paper presented at an international conference: Genesis of
a Nation II, Pegasus Hotel, Guyana July 29-31.
Danns, G. and Parsad, B.S. (1989) Domestic Violence and Marital Relationships in
the Caribbean. A Guyana Case Study. Georgetown: Women's Studies
Unit, University of Guyana.
Dobash, R and Dobash R.P. (1979) Violence Against Wives, New York, Free Press.
Dobash, R. and Dobash R. P. (1992) Women, Violence and Social Change, New
Gopaul, R., Morgan P. and Reddock, R. (1994) Women, Family and Family Violence
in the Caribbean: The Historical and Contemporary Experience with
Special Reference to Trinidad and Tobago. Report prepared for the
CARICOM Secretariat in preparation for United Nations International Year
of the Family, 1994.
James, CLR (1963/1989) The Black Jacobins New York, Vintage Books.
Langan, P. and Innes, C. (1986) "Preventing domestic violence against women",
Washington DC, US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics
Kelly, L. (1988) Surviving Sexual Violence Cambridge, Polity Press.
Mohammed, P. (1994) A Social History of Post-Migrant Indians in Trinidad from
1917 to 1947. A Gender Perspective. Thesis submitted in fulfilment of the
requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Development
Studies of the Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, The Netherlands.
Parsad, B.S. (1988) "Domestic Violence: A Study of Wife-Abuse Among East
Indians of Guyana". Paper presented at Caribbean Studies Association
1988 Conference: University Antilles Guyana Guadeloupe May 25-27.
Rohlehr, G. (1988) "Images of men and women in the 1930's calypsoes: the
sociology of food acquisition in the context of survivalism" in P.
Mohammed and C. Shepherd eds, Gender in Caribbean Development St.
Augustine: UWI Women and Development Studies Project.
Rohlehr, G. (1990) Calypso and Society in Pre-Independence Tirnidad, Port of
Spain, Trinidad, Private publication by the author.
Segal, D. (1993) "'Race' and 'colour' in pre-independence Trinidad and Tobago" in
K. Yelvington (ed) Trinidad Ethnicity, London Macmillan Caribbean, pp81-
UNECLAC, Women and Development Unit (1992) Domestic Violence Against
Women in Latin America and the Caribbean: Proposals for Discussion
(Serie Mujery Desarollo) Santiago: United Nations.
UNICEF and Ministry of Social Development, Trinidad and Tobago (1990) Breaking
the Cycle. Report of the Caribbean Regional Conference on Child Abuse
and Neglect, Port of Spain October 10-13, 1989.
United Nations (1993) Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on the report of the Third
Committee: Resolution 48/104 (A/48/629).
IS FEMALE CRIMMINALITY CHANGING IN BARBADOS? AN
INVESTIGATION USING SELF-REPORT AND OFFICIAL DATA
In determining the level of crime, one measure that is commonly used is official
crime records. However, official statistics may tell us more about police activities
and law enforcement practices than about the true extent of criminal activity, which
is generally accepted to be higher than that captured in official data. The self report
method is one way of attempting to measure criminal behaviour independent of
crimes that come to the attention of the police and the police response to crime.
The self report technique is usually anonymous, and asks respondents to report
acts that they have committed which violate the law. A self report study of crime
was carried out among young people in the age group 15-24 in two communities in
Barbados (Ramoutar 1992; 995A; 1995B). This research project examined the
relationship between social class and self reported delinquency, and tested a
number of theoretical factors and their impact on criminal conduct. The study
revealed that the relationship between social class and crime was weak, but the
strength of family ties, parental role models and the threat of being stigmatized by
peers were significant predictors of criminal behaviour. The issues of sex differen-
ces in criminality were not considered in any depth in this prior research project.
The present paper therefore expands the analysis in this respect. Four issues are
First I consider whether female criminality is changing and whether the gap
between male and female is narrowing particularly among young people.
Secondly, I consider discrepancies between the proportions of young women
and young men admitting offending in the self report study and the proportions
found in the official apprehension and conviction statistics of Barbados;
Thirdly, I consider whether there are gendered differences in the way young
offenders are treated by the criminal justice system, and in particular whether
among those who have admitted crime males or females are more likely to be
convicted of an offence. I also ask whether among those who have been ap-
prehended males or females are more likely to be convicted. I call these differen-
ces the "fall out rate" for each sex.
Finally, I reflect briefly on whether or not the Caribbean tradition of matrifocal
families and "strong" women means that the gender patterns of criminality and
criminal process are different from those identified in Europe and the United States.
The self report data used for this study were based on a random selection from
a total of 368 households in a lower class area and 288 households in an upper
middle class location. Both communities were within an urban environment. To
obtain sufficient involvement in crime and to capture various types of delinquency,
the poor area was located in the capital city and the rich area was in close proximity
to the capital city. Using a sampling interval that varied, 92 households in the lower
class community and 114 households in the upper middle class area were
selected. Due to the focus on the 15 to 24 age group, 43 households in the poor
area and 41 households in the rich location had an eligible respondent. The
respondent chosen varied alternately from youngest to oldest within the 15-24 age
group from household to household. One hour interviews were conducted with a
total of 37 respondents in the lower class community and 38 respondents in the
upper middle class area. The response rate was 86.0% and 92.7% in the poor and
rich areas respectively.
Sample by Socio economic status and sex
Upper middle class lower class TOTAL
Male 26 18 44
68.4% 48.6 58.7
Female 12 19 31
31.6 51.4 41.3
Column total 38 37 75
50.7 49.3 100
As seen in Table 1,males comprised 58.7% of the total sample and females
made up 41.3%. In the upper middle class area 68.4% were males and 31.6% were
females, whereas, in the lower class area 48.6% were males and 51.4% were
females. The crime and delinquency measure was based upon Elliot and Ageton's
(1980) and Thornberry and Farnworth's (1982) crime measures, but also varied
according to the eight classes of crimes and offences found in the official statistics
of Barbados. Therefore, serious criminal behaviour was included, and the self
report crime measures were comparable to the offence categories found in the
official statistics. The self report item set consisted of 38 offences, and respondents
were asked how many times they committed each offence within the last year. One
year is seen as a moderate recal! period. To guard against exaggerated and trivial
responses, respondents were asked to describe briefly the last time they com-
mitted the offence. The 38 items were grouped into the following crime measures;
status offences, a measure referring to school misbehaviour and acts that are
illegal because the person involved is a minor; public disorder crimes; drug related
offences; crimes against property; crimes against the person; and the total amount
of crime and delinquency.
The official crime records for this study were taken from the Annual Reports of
the Commissioner of Police of the Royal Barbados Police. These have eight
categories of crime from which the apprehension rates were tabulated. The
categories are crimes against the person, crimes against property with violence,
larceny, malicious injury to property, frauds and forgeries, drug crimes, minor
assaults, breaches of the peace-offences against local statutes, and the total
amount of crime.
This study calculated apprehension rates taking into account changes in the
population size to allow for better comparisons between males and females since
a common base (eg. 10,000 persons) is used for each sex. The rates were
calculated using the population statistics provided by the Barbados Government
Statistical Office. These statistics included the age distribution of the national
population for both sexes. After discussion with several Barbados police officers, it
was determined that generally people 60 years and over are rarely involved in
crime. The minimum age level of 15 was used since national population statistics
specify a 15-19 age category in their data. People can normally be charged as an
adult once they are 16 years and over. Thus, the apprehension rates were calcu-
lated in relation to those aged 15 to 59 years for both sexes.
The official crime statistics also include data on people found guilty of an
offence and indicate the person's sex and age group. Conviction rates were
calculated for males and females in Barbados between the ages of 15 to 29. The
age groupings of the population data and the official crime statistics coincided. In
order to ensure true comparisons of the various types of crime from 1990 to 1994,
while taking into consideration the small number of females found guilty within
several crime categories, some offence categories were grouped into a single
crime measure. The final categories were crimes against the person (eg. murder,
indecent assault, robbery etc.); property crimes (larceny, frauds and forgeries,
malicious injury to property); drugs; minor assaults-breaches of the peace; and
the total amount of crime.
For the conviction data of those aged 15 to 24 within the two specified com-
munities, a police register which contains the names and addresses of persons
charged and fingerprinted for a crime, and the nature of the crime committed, was
consulted for the years 1993 and 1994. All those living within the two areas were
recorded and then conviction cards were used to determine their date of birth.
Thus, data were compiled on people aged 15 to 24 convicted of an offence who
lived within the two communities of the self report study. A few people were
convicted of multiple criminal acts. The names of these people were recorded once
and each of their conviction was included in the relevant crime measure for the
given year. The crime categories included the same types of offences as the self
report crime measures. These crime categories were minor assaults-breaches of
the peace (public disorder offences); drugs; crimes against property; crimes
against the person; and the total amount of crime.
Based upon Steffensmeier's (1980) analysis of adult crime patterns, the dif-
ferences in male and female criminality were measured in absolute and relative
terms. The changes in the relative gap between male and females rates were
determined by calculating the percentage that the female rate contributes (%FC) to
the overall rate for each class of crime. The absolute differences between male and
female rates were also calculated. These measures formed part of each of the
analyses for apprehension, conviction and self-report data.
Gender and Crime: The Findings
The convergence thesis: are women becoming more like men in their
patterns of criminality?
Official statistics have consistently suggested that crime is committed dis-
proportionately by males (Harvey et al 992, p. 213). Official data also indicate that
males are disproportionately involved in serious criminal behaviour while females
are more likely to commit less serious offences (Hatch, 1990 p. 437, Harvey et al
1992 p. 215). Numerous studies show that female arrests for larceny tend to be for
petty forms of theft such as shoplifting (eg. Cameron 1964, cited in Steffensmeir
1980 p. 1094), and most females arrests for fraud are for minor acts like passing
bad cheques, welfare fraud and theft of services (eg. Giordano, 1978 cited in
Steffensmeir 1980 p. 1095), whereas male fraud offences are more likely to be
These gendered crime patterns found in official crime statistics are not so
strong in self report surveys, suggesting that official responses may indeed be
different for male and female offenders (Smith and Visher, 1980; McQuoid &
Donnelly, 1992; Terlouw, 1992). The male-female ratio for self reported delinquen-
cy is about 2:1 overall, and approximately 1:1 for minor acts of deviance
(Shoemaker, 1994, p. 300). In contrast, the overall ration for official arrest statistics
in the U.S. is reported to be about 3.72:1 (Hagan 1985, cited in Linden 1987, p 80).
Although self report studies demonstrate that females engage in a broad range
of delinquent activities and are more criminally active than is suggested by official
statistics, males generally report a greater amount of delinquent involvement,
particularly in aggressive acts. As deviant behaviour increases in its severity the
gap between male and female offending also becomes larger (Morash 1986 p. 44).
It should be noted, however, that self report studies have focused on adolescents.
Hence, the narrower male/female gap found in self report data may be attributable
to the greater criminality of younger women compared with older ones. Eth-
nographic work, however, suggests that the relatively greater under-recording of
female offending persists into adulthood (Wright et al 1992, p. 156).
The argument of the convergence thesis is that the crime patterns of girls and
women are becoming more like those of boys and men as women become more
'liberated', take more equal places in the workforce, in education and so on.
Several studies have found that females are less exposed to the factors that are
related to delinquency, such as association with deviant peers, than are males,
suggesting that as females are increasingly exposed to the same factors as males,
the differences in delinquency should diminish (eg. Hagan et al, 1979; Simons et
al, 1980; Morash, 1986). However, Mukheerjee and Fitzgerald (1981) have ques-
tioned this argument and point out that the previous work on female criminality did
not consider female crime patterns over a long period of time nor employ an
adequate analysis of the data. Based upon the results of their own study they claim
that the view that women have made substantial gains in crime is debatable. A
theoretical challenge has also been mounted by Steffensmeier (1980) who argues
that an increase in the level of female participation in the property crimes of theft
and fraud relates to the traditional domestic roles of shopper and consumer, and
that women still have restricted access to other illegitimate opportunities, such as
fencing. Steffensmeier would therefore predict no convergence in the range of
offences committed by women.
Only official records can be used to examine whether or not female and male
offence patterns in Barbados have changed over time, since there is only one self
report study so far. The official records, however, do make it possible to see
whether men and women are becoming more similar in either the types of offence
they commit, or in their amount of offending.
An examination of the apprehension rates for males and females for the years
1985, 1990 and 1994 reveals the anticipated difference between male and female
rates and also indicates that crime in Barbados has generally been rising for both
males and females. As Table 2 reveals, there have been increases in some offence
categories, decreases in other while apprehension rates for a few classes of crime
have remained the same. It should be kept in mind that female rates are generally
low and any slight increase in the absolute contribution made by women to crime
may result in large percentage increases. For females the increases have been
most marked for breaches of the peace, drug related offences, and forgeries,
showing increases of 104%, 74% and 44% respectively from 1985 to 1994. There
was a sharp increase of 189% in forgeries for the year 1990 followed by a decrease
in 1994. There were also three steady substantial decreases of 40% and over for
females in the offence categories of crimes against the person, malicious injuries
to property, and minor assaults.
Male and Female Apprehension Rates (per 10,000) For 1985, 1990, and 1994
1985 1990 1994
Male Female Male Female Male Female
Crimes ag. person 26.6 2.7 31.5 1.6 33.5 1.3
Property with violence 29.8 0.4 48.4 0.5 46.1 0.5
Larceny 59.0 9.6 86.0 8.0 83.1 10.3
Malicious injury to 11.8 3.2 10.2 1.4 11.3 0.8
Frauds and forgeries 25.2 1.8 32.0 5.2 13.7 2.6
Drugs 33.5 3.4 71.4 5.0 99.0 5.9
Minor Assaults 65.7 10.9 85.0 8.1 65.8 6.5
Breaches of peace/ 70.3 9.3 89.0 7.0 118.4 19.0
Total Crime 323.5 41.4 453.5 36.8 473.2 47.1
Focusing on the male apprehension rates, there were increases in most classes
of crime. The exceptions were forgeries which showed a notable decrease, mali-
cious damage to property which showed a very slight decrease, and minor assaults
which remained unchanged. As for the women, there were pronounced increase
for drug related offences, breaches of the peace, but in the case of the males,
crimes against property with violence and larceny also went up, with most of the
increases occurring between 1985 and 1990. All of these types of crime showed an
increase ranging from 41% for larceny to 196% for drug related offences between
the year 1985 and 1994.
In general, the data reveal that even though the overall apprehension rate for
both sexes is increasing, the male rate has increased in more offence categories,
and the scale of the increase in apprehension rates has been much greater for
males than females. The trends may be similar, but there is no overall conver-
A comparison of the male and female apprehension rates indicates the absolute
differences between male and female apprehension rates and the percentage that
females contribute to the total apprehension rate for each class of crime. The
absolute gap between male and female rates widenedfor all but one of the offence
categories from 1985 to 1994. The exception was forgeries which showed a
convergence of 47%. This is attributable to the increase in the female apprehen-
sion rate for this crime and the decrease in the male rate. The difference between
men and women widened most for drug related offences, breaches of the peace,
crimes against property with violence, and larceny; all the increases can be
attributed to big increases in the male apprehension rate over time. In the case of
drug offences, the gap in apprehension rates between men and women widened
by 209% between 1985 and 1994. Contrary to the argument that female patterns
are becoming more similar to those of men, in Barbados the relative gap between
the sexes has been widening for all offence categories except forgeries and
breaches of the peace. Results are presented in Table 3. Even for those offences
where more women have been apprehended, the difference between the sexes is
greater. As indicated previously, one of the most substantial increases in ap-
prehension for women was for drug related offences. Nevertheless, the difference
between the sexes for these offences has widened steadily and considerably since
the male rate of apprehension has gone up even more dramatically.
Percent Female Contribution (%FC) and Absolute Difference between
Males and Females (AD) of Apprehension Rates for 1985,1990 and 1994
Absolute AD Difference <-------%FC--------->
1985 1990 1994 1985 1990 1994
Crimes ag. 23.9 29.9 32.2 9.2 4.8 3.7
with violence 29.4 47.9 45.6 1.3 1.0 1.1
Larceny 49.4 78.0 72.8 14.0 8.5 11.0
property 8.6 8.8 10.5 21.3 12.1 6.6
forgeries 23.4 26.8 11.1 6J7 14.0 16.0
Drugs 30.1 66.4 93.1 9.2 6.5 5.6
Minor 54.8 76.9 59.3 14.2 8.7 9.0
local statutes 61.0 82.0 99.4 11.7 7.1 13.8
CRIME 282.1 416.7 426.1 11.3 7.5 9.1
In examining gender differences in crime, the percentage that each offence
contributes to the total male and female apprehension rates is presented in Table
4. As would be expected from the apprehension figures, breaches of the peace,
minor assaults, larceny, and drug offences contributed the most to the total female
apprehension rate for the last 10 years. This pattern is similar for males. However,
the percent of the total female apprehension rate accounted for by breaches of the
peace increased from 22.5 in 1985 to 40.4 in 1994, whereas for males the increase
was from 21.8 in 1985 to 25.1 in 1994. On the other hand, the male apprehension
rate for drugs comprised 10.4% of the total male apprehension rate in 1985 and
21.0% in 1994, while the female rate comprised 8.3% and 12.6% of the total female
apprehension rate in 1985 and 1994. More importantly, the percentage of the total
female rate accounted for by crimes against property with violence and larceny
shows no increase, and the percentage of the total rate accounted for by crimes
against the person and malicious injuries to property declined. In contrast, the
percentt of the total male rate accounted for by these offences remained relatively
unchanged. Moreover, the percent of the total female rate accounted for by forgery
was the only increase, while simultaneously the total male apprehension rate
accounted for by forgery declined. These results also suggest that with the excep-
tion of breaches of the peace and forgery, women have not 'caught up' with men in
apprehension rates for most offence categories.
Percent Each Offence Category Contributes to the total Male and Female
Apprehension Rates for 1985,1990,and 1994
1985 1990 1994 1985 1990 1994
Crimes ag. 6.5 4.4 2.8 8.3 6.9 7.1
Crimes ag. 0.9 1.3 1.0 9.3 10.7 9.8
Larceny 23.4 21.7 22.0 18.3 19.0 17.7
Malicious in- 7.7 3.7 1.8 3.7 2.2 2.4
Frauds and 4.3 14.1 5.6 7.8 7.1 2.9
Drugs 8.3 13.7 12.6 10.4 15.7 21.0
Minor As- 26.5 22.1 13.9 20.4 18.7 14.0
Breachesof 22.5 19.1 40.4 21.8 19.6 25.1
As yet another approach to the convergence question, the ratio of male to
emale apprehension rates was also assessed to determine whether the gap
betweenn men and women is changing. The results are presented in Table 5.
overall the male-female difference has increased from 7.8 to 1 in 1985, to 10.0 to
I in 1994. In general, the data indicate that the ratio of male and female rates over
he last ten years is more than 6:1 for all types of crime. More importantly, the
difference between men and women for all crimes, except forgeries, and, to a
sser extent, breaches of the peace, has become greater. Moreover, where the
legree of seriousness is greater, the ratio of male to female apprehensions is
Ireater also, that is, for offences against property with violence and, less markedly,
or crimes against the person.
Male/Female Apprehension Ratio For 1985,1990, and 1994
Male Female Male Female Male Female
Crimes ag. 10: 1 19.7: 1 25.6: 1
Crimes ag. 77.7: 1 98.7: 1 96.0 : 1
Larceny 6.1 : 1 10.8: 1 8.0: 1
Malicious in- 3.7; 1 7.6 : 1 13.6 : 1
Fraud and 14.2: 1 6.2: 1 5.2: 1
forgeries ______ ________
brugs 9.8: 1 14.2 : 1 16.6 : 1
Minor As- 6.0: 1 10.5: 1 10.1 : 1
Breaches of 7.6: 1 12.7: 1 6.1 : 1
the peace -
TOTAL 7.8: 1 12.3: 1 10.0: 1
In summary, the official data show that the apprehension rates of males greatly
exceed those for females in every offence category. However, the overall rates
have increased for both men and women. Despite the overall increase for females,
the male rates have increased in more offence categories and are much bigger
increases than those for females. The only offences where women showed any
sign of "catching up" with men were forgeries and breaches of the peace. Overall,
the ;data showed that women are not expanding their range into new types of crime
or more serious offences, and that the level of female involvement in crime is not
increasing as fast as that of men. Therefore, there appears to be no support in
Barbados for the argument that if women become more 'liberated', their pattern of
criminality becomes more like the pattern for men. Hence, the data do not lend
support to the convergence thesis.2
The conviction rates of people aged 15 to 29 were examined for the years 1990,
1992 and 1994. The data in Barbados revealed that the conviction rate for males is
substantially higher than the rate for females for all three years. There was an
increase for both sexes in those found guilty of a crime in 1992, when the rates
were unusually high, followed by a decrease in 1994. The most pronounced and
consistent increase for both sexes was in convictions for minor assaults/breaches
of the peace, which increased by 161% for males, and by 185% for females
between 1990 and 1994. In contrast, convictions for drug offences fell for both
sexes between 1990 and 1992. Between 1990 and 1994, however, the rate of
convictions for drug related offences for males increased by 113%, while the rate
for women remained lower than in 1990. The difference between the conviction
rates of men and women remained lower than in 1990. The difference between the
conviction rates of men and women increased for both minor offences and drug
offences, but this absolute difference in conviction rates decreased for crimes
against the person, owing to a decrease in the conviction rates of males between
1990 and 1994. No females were convicted for offences against the person in any
of the years investigated. Perhaps what is more important is that the overall ratio of
male to female rates of conviction remained relatively unchanged from 1990 to
1994. In general, the level of female convictions and the types of crimes women are
convicted for has remained more or less constant over the years, and there has
been no convergence in the conviction rates between men and women.
Male/Female Differences in Self Reported Crimes
As discussed at the beginning of this paper, self report studies in other parts of
the world show that females report more offences compared to males than the
official statistics would lead us to expect, but that males still report more offences
than females do, and that this difference becomes greater the more serious the
The data examining sex differences in self reported. delinquency among the 15
to 24 age group in a relatively poor and a middle class community (Table 7) reveal
that overall male and female rates of crime were quite similar, with a ratio of male
to female involvement of about 1;1:1. However, the male rate was considerably
higher for property offences, crimes against persons, and public disorder offences,
and only slightly higher for the much more common status offences and for drug
related offences.3 While the rate of admission/commission of status offences was
quite similar between the sexes, as has also been found worldwide, these offences
constituted 42% of those reported by females, and only 30.3% of those reported by
males. Status offences should not, therefore, be seen as a specifically female
activity; rather they loom large proportionately in analyses of female crime because
girls and women commit fewer other kinds of offences than men do. As other
studies have found (eg. Morash, 1986; Shoemaker, 1994), the levels of male and
female involvement in crime are more similar for minor forms of delinquency, but
become more divergent as the severity of the crime increases, the pattern which is
also apparent in official statistics. Although these results showed more similarity
between the sexes in self report data in Barbados than in official data, male self
report rates still exceeded those for females in every category of crime, and
females in Barbados made their greatest contribution to minor forms of delinquen-
Male and Female Conviction Rates. Percent Female Contribution (%FC) and Absolute Dif-
ference (AD). Percent for each Offence Category Contributes to the Total Male and Female
Conviction Rates, and Male/Female Conviction Ratio for 1990,1992, and 1994.
Convic- AD %FC Ratio-
tion rates per % total- % total- Male
10,000 Male Female Female
Crimes 90 30.4 0 30.4 0 22.9 0
Against 92 36.5 0 36.5 0 19.5 0
Person 94 20.5 0 20.5 0 11.1 0 -
Property 90 48.6 4.0 44.6 7.6 36.6 34.2 5.5:1
92 61.7 11.2 50.5 15.4 32.9 61.5
Crimes 94 34.9 3.3 31.6 8.6 19.0 19.9 10.6:1
Drugs 90 25.0 4.3 20.7 14.7 18.8 36.8 5.8:1
92 18.7 2.3 16.4 11.0 10.0 12.6 8.1:1
94 53.3 3.6 49.7 6.3 29.0 21.7 14.8:1
Breaches 90 28.7 3.4 25.3 10.6 21.6 29.1 8.4:1
of peace/ 92 70.7 4.7 66.0 6.2 37.7 25.8 15.0:1
minor as- 94 75.0 9.7 65.3 11.5 40.8 58.4 7.7:1
TOTAL 90 132.8 11.6 121.2 8.0 11.4:1
CRIME 92 193.5 18.2 175.3 8.6 10.6:1
94 183.9 16.7 167.2 8.3 11.0:1
Self Reports of Crime in Two Communities. Percent Female Contribu-
tion(%FC) and Absolute Difference(AD). Percent each Offence Category
Contributes to Total Male and Female Self Report Rate, and Male/Female
Ratio for 1991
Self report Rates AD %FC %Total %Total Ratio
(per100) Male Female Male
Male Female Female
Crimes ag. 50.0 25.8 24.2 34.0 16.7 12.9 1.9:1
Property 68.2 29.0 39.2 30.0 22.7 14.5 2.4:1
Drugs 22.7 16.1 6.6 41.5 7.6 8.1 1.4:1
Public dis- 68.2 45.2 23 39.9 22.7 22.6 1.5:1
Status of- 90.9 83.9 7 48.0 30.3 42.0 1.1:1
TOTAL 95.5 90.3 5.2 48.6 1.1:1
In order to make the comparison more exact, sex differences in the conviction
data for people aged 15 to 24 were examined within the same two urban com-
munities where the self report study was carried out. These were compared to the
self report data. The male conviction rate for every offence category exceeded that
for females in 1993 and 1994. In general, the difference in convictions between the
sexes was greatest for crimes against the person and property offences. Women
were only convicted for drug related offences (in 1993 alone) and for public
disorder in both years. This finding is consistent with the high levels of female
self-reporting of public disorder offences as compared to other crimes, and the
greater similarity between women and men for breaches of the peace in apprehen-
The lack of female convictions for crimes against the person or property
offences reflect the low levels of female self- reporting for these offences com-
pared with male levels. The absence of convictions also reflects the apprehension
rates which revealed that the ratio of male to female apprehension was highest for
crimes against property with violence and crimes against the person.
Male and Female Conviction Rates in Two Communities. Percentage
Female Contribution (%FC) and Absolute Difference (AD)> Percentage
Each Offence Category Contributes to the Total Male and Female Convic-
tion Rates, and Male/Female Conviction Ratio for 1993 and 1994.
Convic- Rates AD %FC %Total %Total Ratio
tion (per 100) Male Female M:F
Crimes 13.8 0 13.8 0 33.3 0
Ag 8.1 0 8.1 0 22.4 0
Property 11.3 0 11.3 0 27.3 0
Crimes 94 11.9 0 11.9 0 32.9 0
Drugs 5.0 0.7 4.3 12.3 12.1 50.0 7.1:1
94 8.1 0 8.1 0 22.4 0
Public 33.8 0.7 10.6 5.8 27.3 50.0 16.1:1
Offences 30.0 0.7 7.4 8.0 22.4 100.0 11.6:1
TOTAL 1.4 32.4 4.0 24.1:1
CRIME 94 0.7 29.3 2.3 42.9:1
Both self report and conviction data among the age group 15 to 24 indicated
hat women were least likely to be involved in property crimes, even though this
)ffence category included larceny, the type of illegal act which Steffensmeier
:1980) claimed was most typically engaged in by women. As Table 3 showed, while
'emales may have been apprehended more for larceny than for a number of other
Mffences, they are nonetheless falling progressively below the male rates even for
arceny. This suggests that the female contribution to the property crime of larceny
nay be declining. Overall, the evidence indicates that young females in Barbados
do not commit the more serious crimes. In Barbados as elsewhere these are
Predominantly committed by males.
The "chivalry" thesis: are the police and the courts more lenient with
The larger male-female differences found in official crime data compared to self
report studies have been explained in various ways, most notably Pollak's (1961)
chivalry hypothesis described by Smart, (1976 pp. 46-53), arguing that there is
preferential treatment of women by the police and the courts and that this accounts
for their low official crime rate. However, Morris (1988) revealed that in the UK
females are not treated more leniently in the criminal justice system and in her
study factors affecting sentencing outcomes for both sexes were race, family
circumstances, type of offence, and prior record. Earlier research did not take into
account the fact that females have fewer previous convictions as compared to
males, and commit less serious crimes (Morris 1988, p. 164, Harvey et al 1992, p.
216.) It has been pointed out that these differences may partially account for
females being more likely than males to be filtered out at the advanced stage of the
criminal justice process (Harvey et al, 1992), as well as for their apparently lighter
sentences (Hatch etal, 1990).
These attempts to challenge the chivalry hypothesis have produced data lead-
ing to an almost opposite argument, for certain factors like marital status and
whether the crime was committed with others, influence the severity of the senten-
ces women receive, and suggest that females who act contrary to the behaviour
that is conventionally expected of them invoke harsher penalties (see Morris, 1988,
Worrall, 1990). This is especially prevalent in the juvenile system where the
delinquent behaviour of young females is often redefined in terms of sexual
delinquency in an attempt to control and ensure appropriate female conduct
(Morris 1988; Omodei 1989, p. 59). Girls are more likely than boys to come into
contact with social control agencies and be place on supervision orders for non-
criminal matters (Morris 1988), and are more severely sentenced than boys for
status offences (Rosenbaum and Chesney-Lind, 1994; Participants in the Florence
In an attempt to determine whether the apparent sex differences in criminality
may be exaggerated by the preferential treatment of women within the criminal
justice system, the fall-out between sexes from self report to conviction for the 15
to 24 age group within the two communities, and from apprehension to conviction
for people aged 16 to 59 for the whole island was explored. As Table 9 reveals,
the fall-out for both sexes from self report to conviction was relatively high. Never-
theless, the fall-out of females from self reported delinquency to conviction for an
offence was close to 100% and was notably greater than the fall-out of males in
every offence category for the years 1993 and 1994. In other words, almost none
of the females who admitted offending are likely to be convicted of a crime, in
contrast to the males. Surprisingly perhaps, females were more likely to be con-
victed for drug related and public order offences than for more serious crimes. The
differences in the fall-out between the sexes ranged fro 15.1% for public disorder
crimes to 27.6% for crimes against the person in 1993, and from 10.2% for public
disorder offences to 35.7% for drug related offences in 1994.
A Comparison of Percentage Male and Female Fall Out from Self Report
to Conviction and from Apprehension to Conviction
Self-Report-Conviction Apprehension- Conviction
1993 1993 1994 1994 1990 1990 1994 1994
Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female
Crime 72.4 100 83.8 100 73.9 100 80.9 94.4
Crime 83.4 100 82.6 100 74.0 82.2 72.3 78.8
Drugs 78.0 95.7 64.3 100 76.9 60.0 65.2 57.6
Public 83.4 98.5 88.3 98.5 87.0 88.7 68.5 73.3
TOTAL 64.6 98.4 68.6 99.2 79.4 83.4 70.9 73.9
The fall-out of adult men and women from apprehension to conviction was also
high in the island as a whole but the fall-out of females was greater than the fall out
of males for all categories of crime with the exception of drug related offences for
the years 1990 and 1994. Once again the differences in the fall out between males
and females was lowest for public disorder crimes at 1.7% and 4.8% and highest
for crimes against the person at 26.2% and 13.5% for 1990 and 1994 respectively.
For both years drug offences were the only class of crime where the fall-out of
females was less than that for males.
The data suggest that once women are apprehended they are almost as likely
to be convicted as men, particularly for the minor forms of crime like public disorder
offences. It is at the stage of initial scrutiny and detection that the fall out of young
females is noticeably greater than that of young males, that is from self report to
conviction rather than from apprehension to conviction. Given this, chivalry is
unlikely to be an adequate explanation, for the rate of chivalry might be presumed
to be constant. A more adequate explanation is now required.
This study carried out in Barbados revealed that women's involvement in crime
is more similar to that of young men than is indicated by official statistics. However
the analysis also revealed that changes over time are not in the direction of women
becoming "more like men" as they become more self-determining, at least as far as
criminality is concerned. The national apprehension data for the period 1985 to
1994 showed that the male rate increased substantially for almost every type of
crime as compared to that for females. Males had an overall increase of 46%
whereas females only had a 14% increase. Yet, the nation's conviction data on
people between the ages of 15 to 29 for 1990 to 1994 showed that there was a
overall increase of 38% for males and 44% for females. Thus, the rate of conviction
for women has gone up faster than the male conviction rate (11.4:1 in 1990 as
compared to 11.0:1 in 1994). This may mean that women are now more likely to be
subjected to legal sanctions once officially apprehended, or perhaps that the 15 to
29 female age group is responsible for a large portion of the small number of
females that is apprehended.
In relation to the first question posed at the beginning, as to whether there is a
convergence in crime patterns between the sexes, the evidence demonstrated that
in Barbados, young and adult women have not "made gains" on men as far as
criminality is concerned, nor has the range of female criminality become more
similar to that of males. Therefore, there has been no convergence between men
In answer to the second question, in Barbados as elsewhere, young men and
women admit to more criminal acts than are reported to the police or appear in the
official statistics. When self report data are considered the rate of female offending
is more similar to that of males than official statistics would lead us to suppose,
particularly in relation to less serious offences.
As far as chivalry goes, it seems that females are less likely to be suspected of
involvement in crime as compared to males. Consequently, the female contribution
at the various stages of the criminal justice process is lower, since the likelihood of
females initially coming into contact with the criminal justice system is reduced
compared with the probability for males. Once in the system, however, there is less
support for the chivalry thesis. The female conviction rate appears to be "catching
up" with the rate for men, and while women who are apprehended for serious
offences are still less likely than men to be convicted, the difference between the
two sexes at this stage of the process is relatively slight. I have therefore argued
that some other explanation than "chivalry" needs to be found for the differences
Finally, many works of classical Caribbean anthropology and more recent
sociological studies emphasise the importance of female heads of households,
women as economic providers, and of 'matrifocal families' in the Afro-Caribbean
(eg. Clarke, 1970; Ellis, 1986; Massiah, 1983; Mohammed, 1988; Smith, 1956). If
these are the roles and pressures which produce criminality in western males, do
they lead to the same crime and justice patterns for Caribbean women? The data
presented show that even though Caribbean women frequently carry sole respon-
sibility for families, experience financial pressures, and are regarded as strong,
official practice appears to be gendered in the same way as in other studies
reported, and the criminal behaviour patters of Barbadian women are consistent
with those of women worldwide.
1. Further details of this study are presented in the following:
Karen M. Ramoutar (1992) An Empirical Investigation of Social Class and Crime,
and of the Major Class-Related Theories of Crime in a Caribbean Com-
munity, M.Phil thesis, University of the West Indies, Barbados.
Also Ramoutar 1995A; 1995B.
2. I did not attempt to measure whether or not Barbadian women are in fact 'more
3. Cross tabulations were performed for each of the 6 crime measures with sex for
the preliminary data from the self report study. Sex was significantly related
to public disorder offences [x (1) = 12.81, p ='.05], property crimes [x (1) =
14.88, p. = .001], and crimes against persons [x (1)= 12.40, p= .05]. Male
respondents reported committing a significantly greater number of these
types of crimes as compared to female respondents.
Clarke, E. (1970) My Mother Who Fathered Me, London, Allen and Unwin.
Elliott, D & Ageton, S (1980) "Reconciling race and class differences in self-reported
and official estimates of delinquency". American Sociological Review
Ellis, P. (1986) Women of the Caribbean. Zed Books, London and New York.
Hagan, J. Simpson, S. Gillis, A. (1979) "The sexual stratification of social control: a
gender-based perspective on crime and delinquency". British Journal of
Sociology, 30 (1): 2540.
Harvey, L. Burnham, R. Kendall, K. & Pease, K. (1992) Gender differences in
criminal justice". British Journal Criminology 32 (2) 208-217.
Hatch, A. & Faith, K. (1989-1990) "The female offender in Canada: a statistical
profile". Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, 3:432-456.
Linden, R. (1987) Criminology: A Canadian Perspective. Toronto: Holt, Rinehart and
Massiah, J. (1983) Women as heads of households in the Caribbean. United Nation
Educational Scientific & Cultural Organization.
McQuoid, J. & Donnelly, S. (1992) "Self-reported delinquency: the acceptable face
of juvenile crime" in D. Farrington and S. Walklate (eds) Offenders and
Victims: Theory and Policy, London, British Society of Criminology &
Institute for the Study and Treatment of Delinquency, pp. 129-144.
Mohammed, P. (1988) "The Caribbean family revisited", in P. Mohammed and C.
Sheppard (eds) Genderin Caribbean Development. U.W.I., St. Augustine,
Women and Development Studies Project. pp. 170-182.
Morash, M. (1986) "Gender, peer group experiences and seriousness of delinquen-
cy". Journal of Research in Crime & Delinquency 23 (1):43-67.
Mukherjee, S. and Fitzgerald, R. (1981) "The myth of rising female crime" in S.
Mukherjee and J. Scutt (eds) Women and Crime, Sydney, Australian
Institute of Criminology and Allen & Unwin, pp. 127-166.
Omodei, R. (1981) "The myth interpretation of female crime" in S. Mukherjee and
J. Scutt (eds) Women and Crime, Sydney, Australian Institute of Criminol-
ogy and Allen and Unwin, pp. 51- 70.
Participants in the Florence Conference (1989) "Girls in the European Criminal
courts: a comparative view" in M. Cain (ed) Growing Up Goods, London,
Sage, pp. 220-232.
Ramoutar, K. (1992) An empirical Investigation of Social Class and Crime, and of
the Major class-related theories of Crime in a Caribbean Community.
M.Phil thesis. University of the West Indies, Barbados.
(1995A) "Social class and crime in a Caribbean community". International Journal
of the Sociology of Law 23:173-293.
(1995B) "The impact of punishment threats on crime in a Caribbean community".
Social and Economic Studies 44:1.
Rosenbaum, J. Chesney-Lind, M. (1994) "Appearance and delinquency: a research
note". Crime & Criminology 40 (2): 250-261.
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analysis". Youth & Society25(3)299-329.
Simons, R. Miller M. and Aigner, M. (1980) "Contemporary theories of deviance and
female delinquency: an empirical test". Journal of Research in Crime &
Smart, C. (1976) Women, Crime and Criminology: A Feminist Critique. London:
Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.
Smith, D. & Visher, c. (1980) "Sex and involvement in deviance/crime: a quantitative
review of the empirical literature". American Sociological Review 45:691-
Smith, R. (1956 The Negro Family in British Guiana, London, Routledge and Kegan
Steffensmeier, D. (1980) "Sex differences in patterns of adult crime, 1965-1977: a
review and assessment". Social Forces 58(4):1080-1107.
Terlouw, G. (1992) "The international juvenile self-report delinquency survey: some
problems in international data collection and results of the Dutch pilot
study" in D. Farrington and S. Walklate (eds) Offenders and Victims:
Theory and Policy. London, British Society of Criminology & Institute for
Study and Treatment of Delinquency, pp. 104-128.
Thornberry, T. & Farnworth, M. (1982) "Social correlates of criminal involvement:
Further evidence on the relationship between social status and criminal
behaviour". American Sociological Review 47:505-518.
Worrall, A. (1990) Offending Women: Female Lawbreakers and the CriminalJustice
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burglars". Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 29(2) 148-161.
THE CHANGING SOCIAL ORGANIZATION OF CR1ME AND
CRIMINALS IN JAMAICA
The violent character of crime in Jamaica has been of enduring interest to
researchers. Much of the earlier literature has been devoted to studying the
changes in crime rates and their socio-demographic correlates particularly to
poverty and the syndrome of social pathologies associated with it [Headley 1982;
1994; Ellis 1988; 1992]. By focusing on violent crimes, these contributions thereby
treat the central problematic of the structure of crime in Jamaica, but the author is
not aware of any analysis fully devoted to this, nor to the social organization of
This article attempts to begin to fill this gap in the literature by providing a
descriptive analysis and general overview of the changing social organization of
crime and criminals since the mid-1970s and the sources of these changes. The
analysis in passing points to the impact of these changes on the effectiveness of
the criminal justice system, but a full discussion of this and the "solutions" to the
crime problem implied in the analysis is beyond the scope of this article.
It is argued that radical changes in the social organization of crime and criminals
have occurred over the last twenty five years. These changes are reflected in a
sharp shift from a predominance of property crimes to that of violent crimes; and
qualitatively, in the level organization, social embeddedness and power of
Jamaican criminal networks. These changes are viewed as the outcomes of
adaptations to the protracted economic crisis and the consequent development of
a strong underground economy in which routine transactions are regulated by
violence or the threat thereof. The intractability of crime is largely a consequence
of its embeddedness in an increasingly accepted process of social reorganization
and emerging norms of rationality.
The data for this paper rests on three complementary techniques. Its primary
data source is the police record of the incidents of reported crime. It is universally
accepted that reported crime tend to underestimate the frequency of offending.
These data are also vulnerable to the institutionalist objection that they reflect the
biases of the criminal justice system. However, despite these and other limitations,
on the assumption that the factors determining the rate of reporting and the
direction of the biases of the law and the police have remained fairly constant up to
1993, it is taken that these data accurately depict the basic patterns in crime and
are thus valid for the kind of trend analysis adopted here. With reasonable con-
fidence, they may be taken as indicators (albeit inaccurate ones) of attributes of the
Beyond the usual total reliance on police crime statistics, interviews were
conducted with criminals at liberty, managers in the private security "industry", and
professionals in the criminal justice system.
The interviews with criminals were done within the framework of a broader
study from which this article is a by-product. This wider study involved mapping
police-community relations in two inner-city communities in Central and Western
Kingston. Both communities are not representative of the city, but are information-
rich research sites characterized by high crime rates, enduring gangs and a history
of political violence. Work in these communities involved a combination of inter-
views with criminals centred on their career histories and on observation during
the summer of 1995.
By critically combining the use of official statistics, police documentation, in-
depth interviews (with criminals and police), and observation, a measure of cross-
method triangulation is achieved thereby improving the validity of the study.
In keeping with the aims outlined above, the discussion proceeds by first
providing a descriptive analysis of the changes in the structure of crime. The
qualitative changes in social organization of criminals are then identified and
explored. It concludes with a discussion of the sources of these changes and their
impact on the criminal justice system. But in order to understand the mediating
influences on these changes, a brief outline of the context in which they occurred
is first presented.
There are three easily discernable stages in the development of criminality in
Independent Jamaica. The first stage is characterized by continuity with the
colonial era in terms of the structure of crime. In this article the central concern is
with the nature and sources of the break with this traditional pattern, little attention
is paid to this period.
The first turning point, and second stage (1977-1987), was associated with the
concatenation of three interrelated processes which have transformed the social
organization of crime in Jamaica. The first of these ir th- Structural Adillr'ment
Programme (SAP). In response to the deepening etunomic crisis, SAP assisted in
shifting the economic and social burdens of adaptation to the poor through
mechanisms such as layoffs, reduced investments in social services and state
programmes designed to create opportunities at the base of an already highly
criminogenic society [Boyd 1988; Anderson and Witter 1994]. The second related
process was the accelerated growth of the export trade in cannabis as traffickers
sought to exploit the economic-political crisis facing the island. Finally, the resort to
organized high intensity political violence as the country became ideologically
polarized [see Stone 1985:63].
The third stage, is associated with a shift in the position of Jamaican gangs in
the international drug trade. Their position in division of labour within the trade
shifted from being mere cannabis producers, to distributors in the main markets of
the North America and Europe of a more diverse product range which included
cocaine and its derivatives. This stage is consequently also distinguished by the
development of a relatively small but growing local hard-drug market, a more
developed informal economy, and structurally embedded violence. For the
remainder of this section, the features of the period since 1977 will be further
Since the mid 1970s, Jamaica has been undergoing a protracted economic
crisis reflected in high levels of unemployment, inflation, indebtedness and a
steady devaluation of the currency. An ex-colonial society typified by high levels of
socio-economic inequality, poverty, social segmentation (as social integration was
attenuated by classism and racism) and high rates of urbanization in a mode which
tends to concentrate the syndrome of social problems associated with under-
As a consequence of this economic crisis, between 1977/78 Jamaica entered a
structural adjustment programme aimed at diversifying the economy and improving
its competitiveness in international trade. The strategies for achievement included
attracting foreign investments on the basis of a cheap domestic labour market.
This was not new, the process of accumulation in Jamaica has historically been
based on the exploitation of cheap labour; the SAP simply intensified this process.
This strategy for achieving structural adjustment (SA) was induced by a combina-
tion of conditionalities imposed by the International Monetary Fund(IMF), and later
in the 1980s, the influence of the globally dominant neo-liberal paradigm which
associates inequality and individualism with efficiency and economic progress.
While a direct relationship between inequality and efficiency is doubtful, it is clear
that high levels of inequality and competitive individualism are associated with high
rates of violent crime [Hagan 1994:64; Haferkamp and Ellis 1992:273].
The SAP has had a profound effect on the labour market. The distinction is
often made between a primary and secondary labour market based on skills level,
with low skills and thus low paying jobs being located in the secondary market
[Hodson and Kaufman 1982; Anderson and Witter 1994. Consistent with the
strategy adopted, a major outcome of the SAP has been that the winners are
located in the secondary formal sector (in tourism, export-processing manufacture
and small-scale service industries). This sector grew by some 80% during the
period 1985-89, and in 1989 it accounted for 32% of the employed labour force
[Anderson and Witter 1994:29].
Tourism was the biggest earner in this winning sector. As percentage of Gross
Domestic Product(GDP) tourism grew from 4% in 1977, to 16% in 1993[ see
International Tourism Report 1993]. But it has developed on a model that com-
pounds the social problems of the country as the all-inclusives tend to further
concentrate wealth within the sector, by excluding and criminalizing its competitors
from among the poor as "hustlers and harrassers" who constitute a threat to the
industry, and by the relatively low wage rates.
More generally, the wage levels within this secondary sector were among the
lowest in the region. Lower wages were compounded by high inflation rates. Thus
for example, wage rates in the 807 garment industry declined from an average of
US91 c per hour in 1990, to US 72c in 1994 [Daily Gleaner 16/2/95 p.7B].
This scenario resulted not only in increased poverty, but also changes in the
social character of poverty, and in greater inequality. These processes served to
worsen the patterns of inequality. In 1993, the mean consumption for the weal-
thiest decile was 12 times that of the poorest, and the share of the top quintile in
national consumption was 46% [Survey of Living Conditions 1993:11-12].
The intensification of inequality is rooted in the logic of the process (which
turned on the policy instruments of divestment, market liberalization and devalua-
tion of the dollar). Divestment passed huge state owned resources to the rich; In
some cases with protection on capital returns at high rates. Liberalization facilitated
price gouging, while devaluation of the dollar and high inflation rates reduced the
purchasing power of wage earners. Wages-compensation as a percentage of
GDP declined from 56.1% in 1977 to 42.7 in 1988 [Witter 1991:113]. Moreover,
there has been a similar decline in the social wage. If the ratio of the summed state
expenditure on Health and Education is taken as a measure of the social wage,
then it declined from 22% in the 1977/78 budget to 17% in 1992/93). After almost
20 years of SA, the economy still remains in a crisis.
The upshot of the changes in the labour market described earlier was labour
force withdrawal. Many of the available jobs were regarded as "unprofitable" or
below the reservation wage of young males in particular. Based on a community
survey of unemployed inner city residents, Buchanan [1986:31] reported that some
53% were uninterested in regular employment as they found "hustling" or robbery
more rewarding. Unfortunately Buchanan did not report the proportion of young
males of this orientation, but it is to be expected that this would have been
significantly higher than its representation in the general population. Male labour
force participation fell from 84% in 1985, to [Anderson and Witter 1994:25] to
74.6% in 1993 [ESS 1994:18.8]. This decline was of course much greater among
the younger male cohorts.
It is in the social organization of work that the social structure is most com-
pressed, and the self-consciousness of one's social place and apparent social
worth most acute. And it is through work that a commitment to the approved
means of acquiring social goods (including respect and the symbolic goods) is best
expressed. But wage employment at the lower end of the labour market is
associated with social stationariness, the improbability of acquiring the above
social goods, socially controlling and oppressive work relationships, and the expec-
tation of patterns of deference which are no longer observed in other social spaces.
This experience with and attitude to wage employment (not to be mistakenly
equated with attitude to work) associates it with necessity rather than self-ac-
For the above reasons, self-employment has tended to be the preferred mode
of work. Withdrawal from the labour market was thus accompanied by the growth
of an already large informal sector and more prevalent resort to deviant adaptive
A second line of response was the creation of illegal economic opportunities
mainly in the drug trade. Indeed the rapid development of the informal economy
served to stimulate and drive the growth of the drug trade underground and it
became a source of foreign exchange for trade in light manufacturing.
The dislocations associated with the crisis led to a third related line of response;
increased migration to the USA and the growth of the Jamaican enclaves with the
major cities [see Economic and Social Survey Jamaica 1984]. This accelerated in
the mid 1970s and has continued into the 1990s, with illegal migration opening up
this option to criminals and young males whose illegal status, limited skills and
acquisitive ambitions coupled with a short time horizon for their fulfilment, made the
opportunities in the American drug trade all too alluring. The entry of these
criminals into the distribution of hard drugs in turn provided the resources and
access to firearms which has helped to transform the character of crime in
The economic crisis and its attending social problems precipitated a deep
political crisis in the late 1970s characterized by sharp ideological polarization of
the parties and society, and high levels of organized political violence [see Stone
1985; Kaufman 1985]. This conflict has had a profound effect on the political
geography of the urban areas of the country. It resulted in the reinforcement and
multiplication of armed politically homogenous communities which are militantly
hostile to opposing parties and highly centralized in their mode of party political
administration. Supporters of competing parties were treated as a fifth column and
driven from these communities. Eyre estimated that in 1980, residents of Western
Kingston and Central Kingston were displaced [Eyre 1984]. This provided more
secure conditions, indeed safe havens for criminals who were prepared to engage
in the armed campaigns of their party or to simply support the dominant party in the
community. This period of political violence served to school criminals (who
doubled as party militants) in organization, extended their contacts spatially and
socially, armed and trained them in the management of violence, and most impor-
tantly, resulted in the accumulation of a large blood debt between a number of
urban communities. This political "war" therefore gave impetus to various forms of
violence and to an increase in the rate of ordinary crime. This electoral effect on
the rate and character of the crime in Jamaica preceded 1980, and since then, has
been periodically renewed during election campaigns but with much less intensity.
While direct political violence has declined, the political infrastructure (garrison
communities and a politicized police Force) and the modes of managing the more
improvised urban communities (that gives legitimacy to criminal local leadership)
which aid the development of criminality remain as potent as before.
These are the conditions driving the changes in the structure of offences and
the social organization of criminals in Jamaica.
STRUCTURE OF CRIME
For the period 1977 to 1993, the incidents of crime in Jamaica increased by
14%, but the rate declined from 2220/100,000 to 2156/100,000. In 1992,
Jamaica's overall crime rate ranked fifth in the Commonwealth Caribbean [Harriott
1994]. These data may sound comforting, yet public debate in Jamaica reflects a
somewhat disorienting fear and near panic with regard to crime. The reasons for
this lay to a large measure in the arresting changes in the structure of crime during
the period under review [Table 1]. The main change has been a shift in the ratio of
property to violent crime, in favour of the latter .
There has been a consistent decline in the rate of property crimes but a
corresponding increase in the rate of violent crimes. This has reversed the old
structure of offending which was characterized by a direct relationship between
the rates of both categories of crime, and a distribution skewed in favour of property
The Structure of Crime (%)
Type of crimes 1974 1984 1993 change%
Violent crimes 10 41 40 +30
Property crimes 78 38 29 -49
Fraud 3 3 4 +1
Drug crimes 9 9 13 +4
ion of guns 1 3 3 +2
Other 0 6 11 +11
Sources: Adapted from Statistical Yearbook of Jamaica 1975; Economic and Social
Until the end of the 1970s, the basic structure of crime in Jamaica (with the
proportion of property crimes being much greater than that of violent crimes) was
typical of the Caribbean and indeed most developing countries [see Buendia
1989:415]. In 1977, the ratio of property to violent crimes was 2:1 [see Table 2].
This pattern has been maintained across the Caribbean. In 1991, Trinidad and
Tobago, which seems to be tending toward the Jamaican pattern, still reported a
ratio of 2:1 [see Trinidad and Tobago Annual Statistical Digest 1991], Barbados 7:1
[The Royal Barbados Police Force], Belize 3:1 [Abstract of Statistics Belize 1992]
and Guyana 2:1 [The Guyana Police Force Annual Report 1990]. In Jamaica, this
traditional pattern was disrupted by the political "war" of 1976-1980. However,
despite the low level of political violence since 1980, this distorted pattern remains.
In 1994, the ratio of property to violent crimes 0.64:1 was worse than the 1980 level
of 0.73:1 [see Table 2].
The decline in the rate of property crime began in 1980 (809.2), but became
more consistent after 1986 (819.5) and has continued through to 1993 (622.4)
[Table 2]. It is not attributable to lower rates of reporting, as this trend is cor-
roborated by victimization surveys [see Stone 1991]. This decline has occurred
despite the protracted economic crisis, and the continued growth in poverty and
inequality. It reflects rather curious changes in the structure of property crimes.
Blue collar fraud has increased absolutely and relatively. Between 1977 and 1993,
the incidents of fraud increased by 58% [ESS 1978:22.6; 1993:23.3] and as a
proportion of of all property crimes the incidents of fraud increased from 7% to
11% over the same period. White collar or corporate offending is not identifiable in
the police statistics. But impressionistic evidence and case reports suggest per-
vasive price fixing, insider trading, over-billing especially on state contracts, and
other illegal techniques designed to obviate the competitive effects of the market
[see Annual Report of the Contractor General 1993]. It is the decline in household
burglaries and theft of personal property i.e. the property crimes of the poor which
account for the general decline in property crimes. This is even more curious as it
points to the qualitative shift in the illegal modes of adaptation to the crisis that has
occurred. New income-generating activities (for young males) in the underground
economy now offer higher income and status, and lower risks than the traditional
forms of property crime.
The growth of the underground economy is closely associated with high levels
of violent crime. Jamaica has the highest rate of violent crime in the Caribbean
(857.2\100,000). Between 1977 and 1994, 9,012 Jamaicans were murdered (the
rate increased from 19.2/100,000 to 27.71 over that period), 21,374 were shot (a
decrease from 55.6\100,0000 to 50.1) and 16,652 raped (from 86/100,000 to 85.1)
[Statistics Unit. Jamaica Constabulary Force]. In the late 1970s the rates of violent
crime, particularly murder and shooting escalated as the ideologically embittered
electoral competition intensified. However, even during periods of ideological con-
vergence, an electoral effect is apparent. This electoral effect is evident in the
peaks in the rates of these types of crimes in the election years 1976 (reflected in
the "crime year" ending March 1977) and 1980 [Table 2]. But even when trimmed
for the electoral effect, the rate of violent crimes still show a steady increase, with
a sharp upward trend since the mid-1980s By providing guns, protective or-
ganizational networks (often extending into the Police Force) and a measure of
legitimacy for its "fighters", politics serves to propel the rate of ordinary violent
crime in the post-election years. However this increase is sustained primarily by
the drug driven character of the underground economy and the use of violence to
regulate its transactions, and to mount competitive challenges. This level of violent
crime is indicative of the more pervasive use of violence as a mode of conflict
resolution in the society [see Mansingh and Ranphal 1993; Crandon, Carpenter,
and McDonald 1994].
Reported Violent crimes vs Property Crimes 1987-94
Sources: Statistics Unit, JCF; Statistical Yearbook of Jamaica 1981:271.
Note: For 1977-79, the Statistical Yearbook of Jamaica provides the best estimates.
Although they are based on the financial year ending in March, its presentation
of the data better facilitates definitional consistency. For these and earlier
years, ESS, aggregates minor violent crimes wounding, assaults) with minor
property crimes under the category "other crimes".
To better understand this general pattern a more detailed examination of the
structure of violent crimes is required.
Year Violent Crimes Property
Number Rate Number Rate Ratio
1994 22,394 897.1 14,353 575.0 0.64
1993 21,275 857.2 15,454 622.4 0.73
1992 20,173 817.7 14,521 588.6 0.72
1991 18,522 760.4 16,476 676.4 0.89
1990 20,698 857.0 16,158 669.0 0.78
1989 19,886 831.31 5,184 634.7 0.76
1988 19,456 825.11 5,336 650.4 0.79
1987 20,647 876.6 17,152 728.1 0.83
1986 19,301 822.6 19,228 819.5 0.99
1985 21,123 908.2 21,058 905.5 0.99
1984 21,186 922.4 19,607 853.7 0.93
1983 20,825 920.2 18,041 797.2 0.87
1982 19,867 876.9 17,592 776.6 0.88
1981 22,279 1009.8 17,020 771.4 0.76
1980 24,201 1112.5 17,602 809.2 0.73
1979 16,387 762.5 35,401 1647.2 2.16
1978 16,640 783.6 33,191 1563.1 1.99
1977 15,893 757.9 30,315 1445.7 1.90
Patterns of violent crime
The rate of violent crimes (with the exception of shootings which in 1993 was
below the 1977 level) have increased significantly [see Table 3]. But the structure
of such crimes has remained relatively stable, with the proportion of the most
serious offences either remaining the same (murder and rape)or changing mar-
ginally (shooting -1%, robbery +2%) since 1977 [see Table 3].
These data could however easily conceal the significant changes in the charac-
ter of violent crime and the corresponding changes in the society that they reflect.
The data no murder, will therefore be used to better illustrate the nature of these
changes. These data have been reworked by the author thereby making them
more reliable and valid than the extant data for other crimes.
Rates (and Structure) of Violent crimes 1977-94
1977 19.2 (3%)55.6(7%) 86.0 (5%)167.4 (22%)
Source: Statistics unit CIB; ESS (for later years only)
'The rates are per 100,000 persons in the population. Structure is calculated as % of
total violent crime. The rate of rape is calculated per 100,000 females. These
rates are thus much higher than those of the police which are based on the
assumption that the entire population is at risk.
Since 1988, unlike other violent crimes, the murder rate has steadily increased.
In 1990, Jamaica's homicide rate (22.4) was four times above the global average
Year Murder Shooting Rape Robbery
of 5.5 [Allene DG 28/3/95]. There is a direct relationship between the rate of
murder and the rates of other violent crimes. As robberies, rape and other serious
crimes increase, and are increasingly executed with the aid of firearms, murder
Historically, most murders were crimes of passion and disputes over personal
property [Johnson 1987:34]. A sharp shift has however been effected from
emotive interpersonal conflicts, to a close association with income generating
crime. In 1993, for example, for 64% of the cases the offenders) was/were known
to the victim, but paramours and spouses accounted for only 2% of all cases, other
family members(2%), and members of the same community 15%. The reality is
better understood by examining the homicidal motives. Here the shift is most
dramatic. In 1983, sexual competition and control, loss/accumulation of face and
communal conflicts (the motives most associated by the police with "domestic
murders"4) cumulatively accounted for 28% of all homicides, while in 1993, this
declined to 16%.
The general direction of violent criminality has been towards greater rationality
and its instrumentality as means to commonly valued ends (wealth, power,
status/respect). Since the mid-1980s murder has been largely associated with
income generating activity in the underground economy. This is reflected in:
i) Increased gang killings. As a proportion of all murders these have in-
creased from 11% in 1983 to 21% in 1993. These are usually directly or
indirectly related to turf control in order to ensure a monopoly on protection
rackets; the local drug market or to enhance the political leverage of the
gang. Turf control is not simply an expression of some primeval territorial
ii) Symbolic displays and dramatic representations associated with some of
these killings. Such displays may involve the killing of unconnected in-
dividuals who may by chance be present at the scene, and the mutilation of
the victims. Such acts are designed to terrify the competition. Some of
these displays are associated with political competition or control including
garrison maintenance and are thus calculated to deter, by terror, any
collaboration with political competitors or the institutions of the criminal
justice system, or any resistance to the internal control mechanisms. But
most of these dramatic displays are drug-related outcomes of inter-gang
competition and intra-gang control of their operatives.
iii) the increasing use of illegal guns in murder. In 1993, 56% of all murders
were committed with illegal guns (which are hardly accessible outside the
criminal networks). This reflects a more generalized use of guns in other
violent crimes. In that same year, 53% of robberies and 24% of all reported
rapes were also committed with the aid of guns [Statistics Unit JCF].
vi) The attributes of victims. In 1993, the majority of victims were young (65%),
urban based(70%), male (89%) and unemployed or self-employed. These areas
clearly indicate homicides were not primarily "domestic". If they were, there would
be a higher proportion of female deaths, the outcomes of inter-gender conflict, and
a more widely dispersed class and age distribution of victims and offenders.
The murder rate is no longer primarily driven by domestic, communal type
disputes, or even political competition, but rather by income generating crimes.
This profound change is reflected in the changing social organization of criminals.
CHANGES IN THE SOCIAL ORGANIZATION OF CRIMINALS
More significant than the quantitative changes in the rates and structure of
crime, are the qualitative changes in the social organization of crime and criminals
which became evident in the mid-1980s. The new features of criminality involve:
a more complex division of labour with greater specialization of roles; the develop-
ment of more intricate organizational networks; the internationalization of these
networks on the basis of a changed role in the international narcotics trade; and
greater differentiation and integration within the underground economy, and its
social embeddedness. Indeed it is in the emergence of these features that the
Jamaican underground has asserted its economic and social power and has come
to be described as an "economy".
The division of labour in the underground economy has become more complex,
exhibiting greater specialization and higher levels of organization. This has
resulted in considerable differentiation and greater stratification among criminals.
In the underground economy, specialization occurs at different levels. Among
gangs, it may involve crime type preferences (drug trafficking, robbery, burglary,
car theft, murder), target type (bank robberies, warehouse burglary), and at the
level of the individual- a multiplicity of role specializations (drivers, entry experts
and so forth).
Reflecting an advanced division of labour, some of these specializations are
finely differentiated one from the another. This is particularly true in the drug trade,
where for example, "pressmen" who compress cannabis for packaging, are distin-
guished from packaging specialists. The latter are required to keep abreast of the
latest chemicals for neutralizing sniffer dogs and new innovations in concealment,
waterproofing and so forth. Many of these specializations have become viable
fulltime occupations. For example, warehouse burglars can easily dispose of their
goods in the informal retail outlets, car thieves may operate on contracts to auto
repair shops, while the services of professional murderers and enforcers find
employment among narcotics traders and corporate actors.3
This has led to greater differentiation of crime careers which may be judged
by the level of vocational commitment to crime, contribution to total income, and
type of activity [see Best and Luckenbill 1989]. Offenders may thus be classified
into three groups: occasional, habitual and professional criminals. Occasionals
are unwilling criminals for whom crime is largely a survival strategy. They tend to
engage in low risk opportunistic crimes. Habituals, though not committed to
criminal careers, engage regularly in criminal activity. For this group crime is a
means of capital accumulation to enter or sustain legitimate business activity.
Habituals fall into two basic categories. Firstly, there are those involved in struc-
tured criminality but who already operate formal businesses. The financial
demands of their businesses and legitimately unsustainable life style, however,
provide the impulse for eventual criminal habituation. Their engagement in socially
approved victimless crimes (the cannabis trade) as their favoured source of ac-
cumulation and their linkages into social networks which provide them some
protection from the control agents of the state and tend to assure them some
measure of success. Sedondly, there are poor urban based Habituals who engage
in violent crimes with a view to quick accumulation. The upshot of this low level of
commitment to a criminal career is usually non-investment in the physical, human,
and social capital necessary for success in the underground economy. They
therefore tend to be less successful as criminals. Professionals are those whose
incomes are primarily derived from crime. They tend to exhibit a higher level of
career commitment and they dominate the high income, highly capitalized sectors
of the underground economy.
In early 1994 the Police estimatedthat there are 3,000 "hardened" criminals
[DG 25/3/94 p 9]. This is reflected in the increasing proportion of recidivists among
the prison population. The proportion of prisoners serving a second period of
incarceration remained stable at 60% between 1982 and 1992, but triple recidivism
increased to "over 50%" as early as 1988 [ESS 1988:21.6].
The development of a critical mass of professional criminals (sufficient to alter
the social organization of crime) is a post 1977 development. Safe havens where
externally directed criminality is accepted have been in existence for some 30
years. These are the garrison communities of the Kingston Metropolitan Area and
Spanish Town which are characterized by politically homogenous populations,
tight integration between local party structures and criminal gang organizations
which exercise a highly centralized control over social and political activity in these
communities and a fair measure of political protection from police action4 A new
generation has grown up under these conditions, in a milieu in which the internal-
ized moral inhibitors against criminality are considerably neutralized.
Differentiation has not only accelerated the processes of specialization and
professionalization, but has also resulted in the increased integration of new
groups including women and children into the criminal enterprise. Formerly,
women and children were involved in support functions such as information gather-
ing on prospective targets and the activities of the police, and the provision of
logistic support for criminal gangs. Females are now more directly involved in
crime particularly in the drug trade (albiet in subordinate roles) acting as couriers
for drugs and guns. Consistent with this new quality of involvement, women are
accounting for an increasing proportion of offenders and convicts. In 1994,
females accounted for 23% of the arrestees for Breaches of the Dangerous Drugs
Law (mainly trafficking) and 34% of arrestees for cocaine trafficking [Report of the
Narcotics Division JCF- unpublished]. While in 1992, they still accounted for only
8% of all incarcerated convicts [ESS 1994:23.7], they represented 16% of all
convicted violent offenders, an increase from 12% in 1977 [Handbook of Jamaica
The level of involvement of children has similarly moved from support to active
direct engagement. For example, form being simply "gunbags" or weapons
couriers, but have now become "hitmen" or designated murderers. This new role
has contributed significantly to the growth of violent delinquency. The rate of
juvenile offending based on cases brought before the courts increased from an
estimated 332/100,000 juveniles in 1977, to 394/100,000 in 1993. The sharpest
increases in juvenile offending occurred in the late 1980s, during the period of the
most rapid change in the social organization of crime.
The significant change in specialization then, has been the shift from sectoral
specializations to an emerging role specialization often along age and gender lines.
Formerly the same persons who now try to develop the knowledge, skills and
networks necessary for success in a particular type of crime, would have been
involved in all aspects of that crime. With the division of labour becoming more
complex, roles have become more differentiated and interdependent. Conse-
quently, greater coordination, and more complex organization is required.
There is indeed considerable variation in the levels of organization of criminal
groups. These criminal groups vary in size, resources, hierarchy, coordination,
spatial extension and linkages with other organizations. Many are simply com-
munity based networks, with an ill-defined membership, varied levels of involve-
ment and points of contact, that have a discrete territorial domain and often
linkages to other gangs. Others are large gangs with a well defined membership
usually numbering between 30-50, a shared identity, and an established leader-
ship, but with a loosely configured structure allowing individual initiative and varied
levels of criminal gang involvement.
The highest levels of organization, and best articulated structures however are
to be found in the drug trade. Here gang hierarchies tend to be taller, matching the
mode of organization of the trade and territorial expanse of the gang5. In some
instances there are external identifiers of both rank and organization. Rules and
norms are developed on the collective experiences within the trade (locally and
internationally) and are designed to preserve the gang and to minimize internal
conflicts, for example, in some groups the use of narcotic drugs is not permitted.
Risk reduction is ensured by planning, which contrasts with the principle of oppor-
tunity on which the less organized habitual criminals tend to operate. The leader-
ship is thus able to exercise greater control over a more stable and occupationally
committed membership. These organizations unlike the looser networks, provide
regular income for their members. Drug trading and protection rackets (aimed at
corporations and more recently at small community businesses) are the two most
stable sources of income. In 1993, the assets of one of the better organized gangs
- the "Shower Posse", was valued by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
at US$300M [Personal correspondence. Superintendent. Jamaica Constabulaty
Force (JCF)]. This is consistent with the estimates reported by Gunst [1995:143].
Another gang, the "Gully posse", was valued at $US 100m [Gunst 1995:220].
These are however likely to be overestimates, since very crude measures based
on dubious assumptions are used and US security agencies have self-interestedly
tended to overestimate their adversaries as a device for increasing their powers
and budgets. But even if grossly overestimated, the resources at the disposal of
these gangs are still vast.
With these resources, and the scope of their operations, the levels of organiza-
tion of the gangs have become more complex. From a list of the 41 identified
gangs in the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA), (on examination, not all 41 are
groups organized primarily for the pursuit of criminal activity), six were selected
based on their geographic representation and accessibility, and have been ex-
amined for their organizational characteristics. They are not perfectly repre-
sentative, but are indicative of the transformation that has occurred. Table 4 gives
a summary of their basic organizational features which include strong gang iden-
tity, strong relations to protective or threatening national institutions (the political
parties, the police and the media), commitment to their criminal vocations, complex
rule governed organizational relationships, large memberships, and gang en-
Table 4 Structural Features of Criminal Gangs
X =presence of the feature
Gangs # 1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6
1. Nane x x x x x x
2. Visible identifiers x x
3. Specific territory x x x x x x
4. Political affiliation x x x x x
5. Linkages to the police x x x x x
6. Linkages to the media x
7. Leader x x x x x x
8. Hierarchy x x x x x x
9. Stable membership x x x x x x
10. Transnational structures x x x x x x
1. Salaried x
12. Rules x x x x x
13. Size 25 members x x x x x x
14. Gang endurance 5 years x x x x x x
Source: Personal interviews with current or former gang members.
The most organized of these gangs are those involved in drug trafficking at an
international level and consequently they are better organized and thus have more
successful linkages. This success is largely related to; the formal business sector
particularly in entertainment and hospitality services, a significant measure of
public approval, and material resources with which to buy immunity from the law.
High levels of organization are not restricted solely to the drug trade. A huge
underground trade in legitimate commodities exists, in some cases involving the
operation of "underground" factories. In one case, the labels of a reputable
manufacturing company were stolen and used to package an assembled product
whose entire components were stolen. This product was then sold through normal
commercial outlets as the commodity described on the label [Personal interview.
Capt. X. Manager of a security company September 1995]. Such activity requires
considerable knowledge, a large labour force and wide social linkages to ensure its
The endurance of criminal gangs is associated with the political variable.
Several gangs have been in existence in the island for over 30 years and are
territorially based in politically homogenous communities where as noted earlier,
the political structures provide schooling in organization. Gang leadership often is
external to (but colloboratively interfaces with) and is integrated into, (or is identical
to) the local political leadership. Their organizational development was however
given further impetus by the quest for drug markets and having to cope with their
international competitors and the more modern police forces of North America and
As organization is extended over space it necessarily becomes more complex.
Jamaican criminal groups and organizations have moved since the late 1970s from
being spatially limited to their immediate communities located in the urban slums,
to being truly international. They now operate in and have formed criminal net-
works in Europe, North America, Latin and Central America and other Caribbean
States. The USA is, however, the main foreign province of Jamaican gangs.
The internationalization of Jamaica's crime networks was driven by the quest
for drug markets and was facilitated by the illegal immigration of Jamaican
criminals to the US and European cities. The quality of the integration into the
global narco-trade is reflected in the level of local earnings from cannabis exports.
This was estimated at US$1 to 2 billion in the 1980s [Griffith 1994:23] with a high
of some US$3.5 billion in the early 1980s [De Albuquerque 1996]. By 1990,
Jamaican criminals had garnered some 8% of the US$8.8 billion American can-
nabis (retail) market and were a significant player in the ($18 billion) cocaine and
cocaine derivatives market. All these inconsistent overestimates have as their
source the DEA, but they nevertheless indicate a qualitative transformation of the
Deportation has become an effective measure for combatting drug gangs,
consequently it is a useful indicator of the extent of internationalization of Jamaican
criminal organizations. Deportations began in earnest in 1989. In 1987 and 1988,
a total of eleven persons were deported, all from the USA. In 1989, however, total
deportations increased to 138 with 99 or 72% of these coming from the USA. By
1994 deportation increased significantly to 1434, with 874 or 61% from the USA,
28% from Canada, 7% from England, and 4% from other Caribbean and Latin
American countries. The exponential increase in deportations after 1988 was
associated with a "crackdown" on Jamaican gangs or "posses" in the USA, where
they had gained notoriety for their use of violent tactics to increase their market
share of the drug retail trade. The 1994 deportations indicate a diversification of
drug markets and a widening of the geographical scope of "posse" drug opera-
The structure of offending among deportees centres on drug or drug-related
violent crimes. The following statistics demonstrate this tendency. In 1978, only
16% of all deportees from the USA were connected with drug related offences,
0.4% possession of guns and none for violent crimes. Some 84% of deportations
were ostensibly occasioned by immigration breaches. In 1993, however, 70% of
all deportations were drug related, 9% for gun possession, 5% for violent crimes,
and a mere 8% for immigration breaches. This sharp shift reflects the qualitative
change in Jamaican involvement in the drug trade.
Tighter integration in the US drug trade has facilitated the importation of guns,
the development of multiclass criminal networks, corrupt manipulation of the con-
trol agents of the state, and the corruption of whole communities, and political
institutions. The presence of the Leader of the Opposition and eminent officers of
his party at the funeral of the alleged leader of the "Shower Posse" in 1992 is one
manifestation of this influence [see Daily Gleaner 26/2/1992]. Jamaica with its
underdeveloped economy but highly materialistic culture has made it possible for
drug-derived resources to be easily translated into social and political power.
Table .5 Deportations from the USA 1988-93
Year Type of Crime
Posses'n Poss'n Violent Other Immig'n Total
Of Drugs Firearm Crimes crime Breeches
1987 16% (71) 0 (2) 0 0 84% (370) 443
1988 35% (190) 2% (9) 2%(13) 0 61% (330 ) 542
1989 57% (278) 3% (16) 5%(26) 2%(11) 32% (153 ) 484
1990 68% (419) 4% (25) 4%(23) 8%(50) 16% (97) 614
1991 69% (401) 4% (21) 4%(26) 4%(25) 18% (108 ) 581
1992 70% (517) 7% (54) 2%(16) 5%(36) 16% (120) 743
1993 70% (542) 9% (69) 5%(37) 8%(60) 8% (63) 771
1994 63% (545) 10%(87) 8%(73) 2%(14) 9% (77) 872
TOTAL 2963(59%) 6% (283) 4%(214) 4%(196) 25% (1268) 5050
Source: Criminal Intelligence Division, JCF.
THE EMBEDDEDNESS OF CRIMINALITY
Criminality is considered embedded when formed in interaction with others in
networks of social relations. These networks provide moral support and the practi-
cal skills needed; In general, they provide what McCarthy and Hagan [1995:65]
describe as "criminal capital",this embeddedness reinforces and protects. The
garrison community provides a concentrated expression of the problem of criminal
embeddedness. Here the crime organization is superimposed on the political
structures which provide the local narco-political dons with a source of moral
authority in these communities.
The corrupt aspects of the political processes such as bogus voting and the
intimidation of opponents in these garrison constituencies lead to the high valoriza-
tion of the gunman by elevating his status within the parties, and party
In this context, criminal organizations perform both protective and allocative
functions [see Harriott 1994]. Their protective function involves not only armed
defence against encroachments by political opponents and ordinary criminals, but
also the function of control agents within these communities, often providing
effective guarantees against predatory criminality in the context of ineffective
policing. This further serves to morally legitimize these criminal groups.
But in these communities, violence, even when manipulated in an offensive
mode may be considered legitimate. The "morally legitimating" principle is com-
munally bounded utilitarianism, the moral boundaries of which co-terminate with
the social community boundaries of the moral subjects. To exist beyond this
communally 6 established boundary is to fall beyond the pale of morally account-
able action. To exist beyond this boundary as an enemy (political, social), is to
qualify as a legitimate target.
Despite the above, some gang leaders have become relatively independent
patrons or "Dads" of their communities as a result of the distribution of the drug
largesse and other criminally derived benefits within the communities. Some forms
of criminality especially those involving voluntary transactions have become social-
ly acceptable means of "survival" and accumulation. Drug "dons" therefore often
enjoy high status and are seen as models of successful adaptation to today's urban
realities [see Report on Grass roots Conference 1993]. The embedded "don" is
perceived as both criminal and police, victimizer and provider, aggressor and
defender, political terrorist and crusading "general". These antinomies simply
reflect the realities on different sides of the moral boundaries.
This embeddedness and the widening gap between legal and social definitions
of crime is an important factor conditioning the ineffectiveness of the crime control
agents of the state. The fear of social sanctions against criminality is negligible,
thus the deterrent value of judicial sanctions has considerably diminished.
While bringing some material benefits to a few, this embeddedness with the
consequent criminogenic reputation and stigmatization of the communities, out-
migration of the upwardly mobile, and decapitalization, has lead to the further
social isolation of the urban poor. In a small society where life chances are linked
to ascriptively based networks, the outcome of this social isolation is exclusion
which in turn often serves as justification for criminality.
Criminal embededness therefore has its basis in the fairly high level of integra-
tion of the underground, informal and formal economies at the community level.
The underground is a supplier and guarantor of cheap goods and services, thus
threats to the criminals are seen as threats to these services and consequently to
the local economy. These communities therefore tend to develop defensive
strategies designed to protect "their" criminal benefactors and to frustrate the
criminal justice system.
These developments are the outcome of criminogenic processes which have
long been germinating in Jamaican society and have become full grown in the last
fifteen years. Increased crime rates, changes in structure and social organization
are primarily adaptations to profound structural changes in the society, com-
pounded by demographic trends and the modalities of political competition.
The exclusion from viable legitimate opportunities and the financial depend-
ence on, and moral acceptance of, drug defined crimes provided the foundations
for the structural embeddedness of criminality. Crime is becoming less a
direct response to the crisis of the formal economy and the processes of
social disorganization associated with it, but moreso the direct outcome of
the dynamics of doing business in a large and growing underground
economy that is becoming more clearly articulated and progressively in-
tegrated with the national economy. It is more associated with a process of
social reorganization than with social disorganization.
Jamaica has become a highly criminogenic society characterized by:
i) Pervasive criminality and disregard for law across all social classes;
ii) A developed well-integrated underground economy;
iii) Majority approval or at least tolerance of the types of crimes driving (not
those regulating) the underground economy;
iv) Criminality becoming increasingly anchored in institutionalized relations
and occupational roles;
v) Increasing acceptance and prevalence of elements of the criminal nor-
mative system and moral neutralization processes(the doctrine of neces-
sity, the shifting of obligation and duty to the victim);
vi) Criminally acquired resources are easily translatable into social power;