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Death penalty ineffective, focus on root causes of crime

Greater Caribbean for Life (GCL) rejects any call made to utilise the death penalty. In a release Sunday, April 16, the GCL said as a society, we must prioritise the rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals who have committed crimes, rather than resorting to the barbaric practice of execution to deter it. Following is the full statement:

The use of the death penalty has been a controversial topic for many years, and the recent call by a section of the T&T Business Community for the resumption of hanging in Trinidad and Tobago has sparked widespread debate and concern.

We, as a society, must reject this call for the use of the death penalty as a means of promoting justice. The death penalty is a cruel, inhumane, and ineffective form of punishment that has no place in a civilised society such as our own!

Leela Ramdeen, GCL’s Chair says: “There is no evidence that the death penalty has any unique deterrent effect on serious crime. Research on this matter has revealed that the certainty of being caught, arrested, and convicted within a reasonable time are more likely to act as a deterrent.

Frank Friel, Former Head of Organized Crime Homicide Task Force, Philadelphia, rightly says: ‘The death penalty does little to prevent crime. It’s the fear of apprehension and the likely prospect of swift and certain punishment that provides the largest deterrent to crime.’

I recall that at the opening of the Law Term on  September 16, 2015, T&T’s Chief Justice, Mr Justice Ivor Archie ORTT said: ‘… Common sense tells me that by itself the death penalty is not the solution. Apart from the dubiousness of its value as a deterrent.’”

The last time the death penalty was carried out in Trinidad and Tobago was in 1999. Crime statistics from 1999 going forward show an increase in violent crime (namely, murders) in Trinidad and Tobago. It is plain to see that the evidence only highlights its ineffectiveness.

The Privy Council ruled in Pratt and Morgan (1993) that a period of more than five years’ delay in carrying out a death sentence after conviction constitutes cruel and inhuman punishment.

Since then, in a number of cases, the Privy Council has raised the bar higher and higher, making it virtually impossible to carry out the death penalty in our region.

There are more than 1,200 persons waiting on Remand in T&T for their murder trials. And remember, the death penalty does not address the increased spate of robberies, burglaries, home invasions and other violent crimes that do not result in murder.

GCL looks forward to the outcome of the Caricom symposium titled: Violence as a Public Health issue: The crime challenge, scheduled to take place in T&T on Monday April 17 and Tuesday 18, 2023.

GCL agrees with the view expressed by Dr Amery Browne, T&T’s Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs, that this symposium is an important step toward finding solutions to address crime on all fronts in the region – solutions, he says, that include “evidence-based strategies and interventions that involve the widest range of stakeholders in our societies.”

The causes of crime are complex and multi-faceted. Inter alia, they include poverty, social exclusion, corruption, deficiencies in our judicial and education systems, and in other key institutions in T&T, the breakdown of the family, male underachievement, the prevalence of drugs, guns, gangs, and so on.

In the face of these social ills, T&T, and indeed, our Caricom neighbours, must ensure that our approach to crime prevention and crime reduction is multi-faceted and coordinated.

There is an urgent need for a robust, comprehensive, data-driven crime plan that includes evidence-based initiatives that address the root causes of crime and provide opportunities for individuals to turn their lives around or never resort to interacting with criminal elements or turning to crime in the first place.

Khaleem Ali, GCL’s Executive Member says: “The focus for approaching crime and violence in the Caribbean should be on retooling and adopting more modern approaches to policing, crime fighting and other deterrents with emphasis on proper border control to limit the chances of drugs and guns from entering our current porous borders, and cleaning up the judicial backlog to promote meaningful justice whereby persons are actually caught, convicted and rehabilitated.

“Holding a ‘big stick’ over the criminal element does nothing to actually instil trust in the minds of citizens when our detection rate remains abysmally low. It is a mere band-aid which cannot begin to control the blood flow. Furthermore, the death penalty has been shown to disproportionately affect marginalised communities and those without access to effective legal representation, namely impoverished persons. This is unacceptable and goes against the very principles of justice and fairness.”

As a society, we must prioritise the rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals who have committed crimes, rather than resorting to the barbaric practice of execution to deter it.

We must invest in our justice system to ensure that it is fair and equitable for all. We must focus on the root causes of crime. Only then can we truly address the issues that encourage and foster a culture of criminality.

The Greater Caribbean for Life rejects any call made to utilise the death penalty and calls on the government of Trinidad and Tobago to direct its attention to evidence-based, data-driven solutions to effectively combat crime and balance it with the interests of justice.


Greater Caribbean for Life (GCL) is an independent, not-for-profit civil society organisation, incorporated in 2014. Our entity is composed by 70 members (individuals and organisation) from 18 countries of the Caribbean. GCL’s main objective is to campaign for and work towards the permanent abolition of the death penalty in the Greater Caribbean and to support Caribbean abolitionist activists and organisations in this region.

For further information contact Leela Ramdeen, Chair, Greater Caribbean for Life at: or via telephone on 299-8845.



“The whole is greater than the part, but it is also greater than the sum of its parts… We constantly have to broaden our horizons and see the greater good which will benefit us all. But this has to be done without evasion or uprooting… We can work on a small scale, in our own neighbourhood, but with a larger perspective.” (235)

Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 2013 – CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee