Towards De-Garrisonisation in Jamaica: A Place for Civil Society

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Published in: Crime Prevention and Community Safety, Volume 12, Issue 1


For nearly 50 years, powerful politically connected criminal actors called ‘dons’ (or area leaders) have occupied – Mafia style – some of Jamaica's deprived urban communities, and enacted new, outlaw forms of community leadership. In these communities, notoriously labelled ‘garrisons’, dons have ‘manufactured consent’ for their illicit rule, using coercive tactics and by positioning themselves as legitimate civic leaders. In the process, these rogue actors have not only gained acceptance among significant numbers of the subaltern class but also (tacit) political recognition in the wider society. Genuine civil society has been eclipsed in Jamaica's urban garrisons due to the persistence of this rogue leadership. Still, a more hopeful outlook for Jamaica may be possible. Drawing upon previous research outlining the widespread struggle against the Mafia led by members of Italian civil society, and the ensuing decline in its omnipotence in that country, the paper considers the implications of the positive developments in Italy for the noticeable movement towards degarrisonisation in Jamaica, and contemplates what role a resurrected Jamaican civil society might play in this process.