NUMBERS. JUST NUMBERS

45k through radar? No problem! 65k? You’re ‘off the road’! Just numbers and the effects of numbers. That’s happened with some things in our Bermuda.

            Right now there are about 240 male Bermudians locked up in Bermuda’s prisons.

            Is 240 a big number? Not when you consider that England and Wales have about 63,000 male prisoners.  63,000 is a big number.  Much bigger than 240. So we could just say that they have more people locked up than Bermuda has.   

            There are about 52,000,000 people in England and Wales. But suppose they only had a population of 52,000. If that happened, and their prison numbers fell by the same ratio, then England and Wales would only have 63 male prisoners. That’s right. Sixty-three.

            So, making a comparison of us 49,000 Bermudians to a population pool of 52,000 people in England and Wales; Bermuda still has an actual count of 240 Bermudians in prison. Go the other way? We’d have 254,000 male prisoners if there were 52,000,000 of us Bermudians.

            Either way, it means that we have three times as many of our male nationals in our prison system as does England and Wales.  So we Bermudians have an incarceration rate that’s more than three times higher. And they have Europes’s second highest incarceration rate [Portugal is top].

            But does that really matter to us Bermudians? Is it important?

            Well, if you leave your house unlocked at night, don’t lock your car when you park it, aren’t bothered by gang fights and shootings and stabbings and daylight robberies by armed groups; then I guess it doesn’t matter – to you.

            But if you are bothered by the incidence of crime, then it does matter. So if you’ve wondered about crime and what can be done about it, you might need to consider this.

            In 1971, Bermuda’s whole prison population totaled 131 people. That’s right – 131 people. About 110 were Bermudian males. Thirty years later, in 2003, Bermuda’s whole Bermuda-born male and female prison population is about 300. About 240 are Bermudian males. So, since 1971, the number of ‘locked up’ Bermudian males has more than doubled.

            But from 1971 to now, the percentage of male Bermudians in the age groups that actually commit most serious crime went DOWN. That’s right. In 2003 there are relatively FEWER males aged 15 – 45 [the prime crime committing ages] than there were in 1971.

            What’s more, Bermuda’s total Bermudian population did not balloon. There were 42,000 of us Bermudians in 1971. Thirty years later, there are about 49,000 of us lot. So population-wise, we Bermudians only grew by about 16% over thirty years. That’s snail-like population growth.

            But over the same thirty years, our prison numbers ballooned by more than 200%. It more than doubled from 110 males locked-up then, to 240 males locked-up now.

            It seems as if we spent thirty-two years locking people up faster than they were being born. “Look!..  There’s another one!.. Quick!.. Lock him up!”

            So what really happened between 1971 and now? What caused our prison numbers to run up so fast so high? What?

            We both know the same facts.

            I know that people are not born ‘bad’. So do you. I know that over fifteen, twenty, and thirty years, societal factors cause a sweet new-born baby to become a dysfunctional member of society. So do you.

            So we both know that some values in our Bermuda society changed. We both know that one result of this shift in values was that from 1971 to now, we actually ‘locked up’ our own Bermudian people faster than they were being born. Now, with 240 Bermudian males locked-up, we have a problem.

            With recidivism as high as it is, what happens over five years? Well, over five years, more than 2,500 Bermudian men go in then out then in then out then in then out…of prison. It never stops. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. In.

            Now you’ve seen numbers in absolute terms and in proportion. By itself, 240 is not big. In proportion, 240 is HUGE and is screaming evidence of a dysfunctional society. But a five year running total of over 2,500 Bermudian men cycling through our prison is worse. It’s earsplitting testimony to dysfunction.

            Dysfunction is still dysfunction even if it is concealed within pretty cottages behind oleander hedges edged by pink beaches.

            Something went horribly wrong! It’s still wrong! Whatever it is, it’s still affecting us.  All of us.

 

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