Randy Seepersad

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Criminologist Dr Randy Seepersad is questioning why the main suspect in Andrea Bharatt’s kidnapping was out on bail even though he had 70 charges previously for rape, kidnapping and false imprisonment.

Seepersad, who taught Bharatt criminology studies at the University of the West Indies, described her as “a quiet, respectful and very intelligent student.”

Speaking exclusively to Guardian Media, Dr Seepersad said Bharatt’s kidnapping had highlighted glaring failures of the State on the part of law enforcement and the society.

“It is inconceivable that someone could have 70 prior matters could still be out there walking the public because the police failed to show up in court. That is a massive, glaring failure,” Seepersad said.

“Any police officer who failed to assist in the prosecuting of purported criminals should be held accountable and face disciplinary action.

“You cannot have a situation where everything falls to pieces because an officer has not come to court,” he added.

Dr Seepersad, who has done extensive work on prison reform, described the Prison system as “a university for criminals.”

He recommended that hardened criminals be kept apart from other prisoners who may have committed minor crimes.

“The way prisons are structured, you could consider them to be universities for crime. Prisons must be used wisely. If you use prisons for people who are innocent or for those who have committed minor crimes and you mix them in with hardened criminals, you are creating a lot of negatives.

“Prisoners lose their jobs, their social contact, all support systems that may allow them to walk the straight and narrow path. During the time that they are in prison, they could be learning bad values and attitudes, making criminal contacts, having a hatred for society and learning how to become a good criminal,” Dr Seepersad said.

He added, “We need to use prisons as a last resort for those people who absolutely deserve to be imprisoned. We need to think of alternative dispositions, community sanctions and other types of actions to help those who commit minor crimes.”

Dr Seepersad also said social interventions were needed to prevent crime.

“Criminological studies show that early childhood development is critical. Parents need to understand the importance of early child development within the first three to five years of life. When children are born into difficult environments, poverty, crime, profanity and exposures to toxins and drugs, these children can grow up with a propensity for criminality because their brain is influenced,” he added.

He recommended that a proper diagnosis be done on some of the causes and risk factors to criminality in society.

While criminological research literature can be helpful, Dr Seepersad said the research must be done specifically in the T&T communities and then social development programmes can be set up to address the concerns.