Local August 5, 2023 | 10:00 am

Lack of social control that distresses many Dominicans

Santo Domingo.- Seen as the way in which a society tries to prevent and sanction behaviors against coexistence norms, “social control” proves to be insufficient when the calmness of neighborhoods frequently disappears due to noise and disorder with alcohol excesses and very crowded neighborhoods. Traffic violations exceed the punitive function of authorities, leaving the country with the highest rate of fatal accidents in the world with little progress against them.

In addition, inter-school violence persists, and prison overcrowding increases due to the proliferation of law violations and the slowness of prosecutions that encourage violence even behind bars, among other signs of a growing population.

There is also the undesired appearance of infiltrators in crime prosecution bodies and failure, according to responsible denunciations from within the current power itself, the mechanisms of ethical surveillance that should close the way to public functions to individuals with controversial backgrounds. However, it is healthy that the worrying presence generates a reaction from the authorities, apparently disgusted and determined to cut by the wayside, enormous efforts to preserve moral values and the legal order.

The demand for consumption of counterfeit spirits is significant in the social marginality and stimulates the poisonous operations of backyard stills; the frantic smoking of illegally imported cigarettes inflows millions of packs to the detriment of the regulated tobacco industry, which is a pillar of the economy; and the irresponsible parenthood that leads to prostitution of minors, almost girls, in crowded seaside resorts in the north and south, manifest a frequent disregard of citizen codes of conduct in the framework of weak exercises of authority.

Situation in classrooms
Admitted by the general director of Orientation and Psychology of the Ministry of Education (Minerd), Francisca de la Cruz: the school is not exempt from the social phenomenon of violence in its context, manifesting itself in all the actors of the school community, which significantly affects learning achievements, as has been evidenced in international investigations of specialized organizations.

This explains why the Ministry, with the support of the UN fund for children, Unicef, undertook this year’s efforts to eradicate school violence through seminars to promote a culture of peace. From the written motivations to discourage drastic behaviors in educational spaces, the conviction that inter-school violence is generated by cultural patterns of upbringing that permeate all relationships is extracted. “Children and adolescents are permanently exposed to different types of violence in the family, school and community context.”

An official report from the second quarter of this year reported the registration of 20,120 acts of physical, verbal, and psychological violence among students, inside and outside educational centers, and 1,724 cases between teachers and students. There is also evidence that the prevalence of bullying is high in Dominican public schools, with a reported rate of 33.6%. “Students report that verbal bullying is the most common and occurs most frequently during recess and other leisure time in the school environment.”

In the newspaper El Dia it was recently published that: “far from being the ideal safe place, schools in the Dominican Republic have become dangerous environments that threaten the safety and integrity of students as has been seen in recent violent events recorded in various schools in the country.
Critical Prisons

The substantial investment of 6,072 million pesos of taxpayers’ money to replace the horror of La Victoria with a new facility that is deteriorating without use in the place called Las Parras is a monumental manifestation of official disregard for the reality that prison riots are causing more and more deaths and injuries. Statistics up to December indicated that in the previous year, there were 15 outbreaks of violence in different prisons.

Press reports indicate that January and September were the two months with the highest deaths due to riots in Dominican penitentiaries. “Violent actions are common in prisons.” Sociologically, these places are seen as powder kegs about to explode. In one of the publications on the reality of those deprived of liberty, we read that:

Demands for better conditions due to overcrowding, abrupt requisitions, constant fights between gangs, and the transfer of inmates have provoked multiple riots. This same year in the Najayo Correction and Rehabilitation Center, six inmates were injured during an intervention by authorities who seized cell phones, sharp objects, and cocaine.

A report by the Prison Commission of the National Public Defense Office released in the middle of last year showed that 62% of the country’s prison population lives in overcrowded conditions. At the same time, the number of prisoners nationwide tends to exceed the figure of 27,506 in the previous period. The overcrowding was concentrated in 19 prisons of the old penitentiary model where 40% of the prisoners slept on the floor or in makeshift hammocks, traits of a medieval treatment of human beings.

Root causes

Anthropologist Tahira Vargas, a columnist who honors this newspaper, focused on recent crimes to attribute, more than to their brutal perpetrators, to the “weaknesses of the Dominican social system and the lack of effective public policies from the State.” She maintained that the facts of the typical crime that led her to reflect showed that “there is no social stratum that escapes this reality since it is a problem that is experienced in all families regardless of their conformation.”

Regarding the class origin of those accused of the crimes that moved her to react, she added: “People are surprised how it is possible that a young man who comes from a family where he received education, where he had opportunities, where he received values, is involved in these activities and this shows that the problem is not (only) in the family, that it is a social problem and that it is also very present in the male population.”

Showing pessimism and dissatisfaction with the collective scope of disrespectful citizen attitudes, the director of INTRANT, Hugo Beras, emphasized that “although actions are being taken to reduce the accident rates (in traffic) in the country, it is also necessary that citizens become aware and educated in road matters. Cars do not crash alone, motorcycles do not crash alone.”

Carrying, more than other figures of hierarchy, the responsibility of putting order in the Dominican roads, Beras claimed that “we have to have as citizens a change of behavior. Here everyone has to assume their responsibility and the issue of prudence, of conscience; and the issue of behavior is basic and fundamental”.
Psychiatric vision

The relationship between behaviors contrary to social coexistence and mental states due to different causes has been explained by the renowned psychotherapist Héctor Guerrero Heredia as “the lack of economic resources and the levels of poverty in which most Dominicans live to make the country a society where economic violence prevails.” Precariousness is seen as institutional violence that frustrates the development of people.

“Man is a biological, psychological and social being. We are talking about a human being who has a predisposition to anxiety, let’s call it that, with neurotransmitter problems in the brain, who gets up, takes a car… And you only have to look at the way we drive in traffic in the Dominican Republic to give a typification of the mental situation of the individual.” Throughout his professional practice, Guerrero has reported that stress is the main reason patients come to his offices.

In the Dominican oral history, a story circulated from the times of Dr. Antonio Zaglul, an eminent local psychiatrist, in which an anonymous protagonist wondered why, at the doors of the asylum (at that time), there was no sign saying: “Outside there is more than inside.”

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Paul Tierney
August 7, 2023 8:27 am

Social control begins in the home.