Friday, 13 November 2009

Violence Work Group

The first meeting of the work group on violence met on 19 October. (Sadly the first meeting that was scheduled earlier had to be cancelled because of the memorial service for Daniel Boyle, one of the young men from Ruchazie who had prepared to be a testifier at the Poverty Truth Commission. He died a violent death at the age of 18.)

John Carnochan who is the Detective Chief Superintendent of the Violence Reduction Unit of the Strathclyde Police and a Poverty Truth Commissioner, hosted the meeting. John launched the meeting by describing the work of the Violence Reduction Unit, which is considering the basic causes of the considerable violence in Scottish Society and developing programs that intervene at appropriate points within the life of the society and individuals.

Violence is identified as a public health problem and John used the metaphor of Tuberculosis to explain the practical meaning of this designation. In former days when someone was diagnosed with TB they were sent away to a sanatorium until they healed. Today, there is early intervention that seeks to prevent the onset of TB. Likewise, if the society waits for a violent crime to occur and then sends the perpetrator away to prison, very little is accomplished. Far better to intervene at the earliest possible point in the life of the child to reduce the possibility that violence will mark the life of this child.

This requires examining the entire environment in which the child is nurtured. Violence in the home, in the neighbourhood and in the media can serve to program a child to do violence. Early intervention (parenting classes, alcohol awareness training, diversionary activities, preparation for positive employment) can help prevent a life of violence.

Such preventative measures do not substitute for strict law enforcement today, but are actions to reduce violence in the future.

It is hoped that the testifiers can draw on their own personal experience as victims of violence and as the work group continues to meet to examine ways in which violence can be reduced.

On 21 March at the meeting in City Chambers, one former gang member told the story of the useless and tragic murder of a beloved member of the gang. After the murder the entire neighbourhood sought to understand the causes of this tragedy and is taking steps that would prevent further such violence. The question that is asked is what can be done, street by street to change the culture in which such violence occurs.

Violence affects everyone and everyone needs to be recognize the changes that will lead to its reduction. This includes recognizing that every individual in creation is made in the image of God and society must maximize the opportunities for every person to grow to their full stature and potential and to realize their own role in the continuing creation of the world.. This is a task that requires the efforts of all of us.