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Reform through sports’ second chance

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Sporting organisations in St Vincent and the Grenadines, should not pass up the opportunity to help reform some of our youths, who have either shown a tendency to be deviant, or have already been law-breakers.

No one is perfect, hence people who are engaged in sports are not immune to slip-ups now and again, and in worst cases, if they are incarcerated for their misdemeanours or criminal offences, and this is made public via the media.

Unfortunately, such persons are often blacklisted by our society, and when the offenders turn to the sport that they show some prowess, in several cases, the much needed solace, becomes inaccessible.

The continuum is extended, as the miscreants sometimes either become repeat offenders or hardened criminals.

This is not to say that there are not sporting units here, which have, on a case by case basis, reintegrated persons who have run afoul of the law.

In this regard, kudos must be given to those who do so, either by intent or by having a compassionate reaction to a particular situation.

Ironically though, Vincentians were among thousands around the Caribbean and the world, who heralded the release from prison of Jamaican reggae artiste Buju Banton, recently.

Was it because he is/was considered famous?

In the Vincentian context, our thinking has to be rearranged, as we have to appreciate that the socio-cultural construct of St Vincent and the Grenadines continues with its inevitable dynamism, hence, there would be negative impacts on the judicial framework and other facets of our society.

Therefore, it would mean a revamp in the manner in which the emerging youth population is cultured and what type of response mechanisms are employed.

How many of us have been granted a second chance for some acts of which we could have been cruelly exposed?

Should we forever stigmatise persons with criminal records, thereby stifling the avenues for reform and second chances?

Sporting organisations, inclusive of national associations, can however be agents for that type of antiquated thinking and should, as part of their mandate, pencil in reformation in the list of objectives for their operations.

However, we must appreciate that not all offenders would have that type of remorse to bring about the necessary change.

In short, it cannot be an all-embracing manner, in which such persons are reintegrated into whatever sporting discipline, as some careful considerations must be made, aided by other professional counseling and other support.

But a light switch was activated, when last December, a business venture undertaken by a private entity, gave us an insight into how impactful an outlet is for those who have been imprisoned, and how they relished and embraced an opportunity to get temporary stardom status.

They were ignited and so too did their relatives, friends and others, in a football match under the lights at the Victoria Park.

Whilst this is a one-off instance, such programmes must be encouraged, after the former inmates exit their confinements.

This type of approach would go hand in hand with the proposed national Sports Against Crime Programme, which is to be rolled out soon.

This undertaking comes at a time when our social stability is under threat and it calls for decisive action.

There is already in place a juvenile justice reform programme, as well as other institutionalised efforts aimed at better shaping the citizenry of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

All in all, it is equally instructive to begin to fashion preventative pathways in the light of the alarming statistics of persons who notch up a string of offences and seemingly have a preference for prisons, despite the reported squalid and appalling conditions.

Giving persons a second chance, especially those who are adept to sports, should become a matter of course, instead of instant condemnation.

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