It is disheartening to see the Ministry of National Security grasping at straws by trying to revive a program whose methods have been sanctioned as ineffective and harmful for almost two decades now.
Shock Treatment is based on the Scared Straight program that was first introduced in the United States in the 1970s as a “hard-hitting” way to prevent juvenile delinquency. Scared Straight programs became popular in the US before being thoroughly evaluated. However, three subsequent decades of research show that programs premised on Scared Straight approaches are ineffective, counterproductive and costly.
Not only do these appeals fail to deter kids from breaking the law, they sometimes make young people more likely to commit crimes. This can explain why several of the individuals attempted to be saved in the original iteration of the ministry’s Shock Treatment program have been lost to violent crime. Since 2011, Scared Straight programs have been defunded by the US Department of Justice and the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and such programs have been outright banned in several states.
In the advent of building a new Bahamas, it is imperative that we pull on our best talent and resources to solve the problems that plague our society.
Based on the abundance of evidence available on the deleterious effects of “shock treatment”, it is evident that the ministry’s Shock Treatment program was never properly vetted by the appropriate field experts prior to its original implementation in 2014, and now seven years later with its proposal to be reinstated.
Addressing behavioral problems in children requires a detailed and holistic approach that evaluates a child’s development in a number of domains — social, emotional, physical, cognitive and language. Any intervention program that seeks to be effective must address the individual needs of the child, and that usually begins with addressing their most basic needs first.
Public officials must be diligent in their efforts to evaluate services and treatment provided to youth to ensure that public resources are used in ways that are effective; helpful not harmful; and truly lead to lasting community safety. Therefore, I implore officials to look into the plethora of evidence-based programs that have been identified to support positive youth development and find creative ways to implement them within the context of our culture.
In the advent of building a new Bahamas, it is imperative that we pull on our best talent and resources to solve the problems that plague our society. Therefore, I would like to call on child advocates — pediatric medical/dental providers, clinical psychologists, educators, social workers, concerned citizens, etc — to actively stand against practices/policies that harm our children and/or violate their rights. It takes a village to raise a child, and we all have a role to play in that village. As a small nation, we simply cannot afford to leave any child behind.
Dr Téemar Carey, DMD, MSEd
Pediatric dentist, educator and child advocate
- To have your letter to the editor published, email email@example.com. Please note letters should be under 500 words and refrain from using profanity, slurs or otherwise offensive language.