Juvenile homicide : a criminological study on the possible causes of juvenile homicidal delinquency in Jamaica

Rae, Sarah-Joy. Juvenile homicide : a criminological study on the possible causes of juvenile homicidal delinquency in Jamaica. 2009, Doctoral Thesis, University of Basel, Faculty of Law.


Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/diss/DissB_9029

Downloads: Statistics Overview


Jamaica, the so-called land of wood and water, normally is the embodiment of a dream holiday destination with white sandy beaches, tropical palm trees, dazzling sunshine and the typical Caribbean flair. Generally, murder and manslaughter are not associated with Jamaica. However, international comparisons of crime rates reveal that Jamaica has persistently had one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Jamaica has been described as the murder capital of the world in 2006 by the BBC news after more than 1’600 people were killed in the year 2005; a tally of at least five people murdered a day. The majority of the homicides are caused by young men. Despite the dimension and severity of the homicidal problem in Jamaica, it is astonishing that literature on this phenomenon in Jamaica is very sparse and the literature that is available either doesn’t conform to the current homicide situation in Jamaica anymore or is inconsistent with other studies. The aim of the present research study was thus to close this gap and to help the process of comprehending the problem of fatal juvenile delinquency by engaging empirical research in serious efforts to describe and explain the epidemic. According to the author, understanding juvenile homicidal delinquents and their actions and thus ascertaining a plausible explanation for their high homicide rate can only be achieved by going back to those whose acts are to be explained: The juvenile homicidal delinquents themselves. The findings of the present study are therefore based upon the data gathered by means of 20 face-to-face, semi-standardised interviews with young men who have committed at least one homicide during the last five years prior to the interview and were aged between 12 and 25 years at the time of the respective homicide(s). The author acts on the assumption that homicides by juveniles can be understood as a reaction that emerges situationally and is based on a complex bundle of causes which leads to an increased susceptibility to homicides. The aim of the present study was to generate a plausible and scientifically substantiated hypothesis to explain the high proportion of male juveniles responsible for the homicide rate in Jamaica. Three groupings were examined: The individual personality characteristics of the homicide delinquents, the social context influencing the individual’s thoughts and actions and the triggering factors in the homicide context.
The study comes to the conclusion that the homicides of the respondents of the present study – additionally to the basic prerequisites of the occurrence of homicides in general such as a life in deprivation and the failure of the institutions of socialisation to sufficiently socialise their members – can be explained in high gear by the widely dispread culture of violence. Within this culture, violence constitutes a part of every-day behaviour and killing is perceived as a legitimate form of dispute resolution to which one has adapted because it utterly works. This is an instrumental understanding of violent behaviour. This apparent culture of violence of the underclass society with the deeply embedded willingness to apply violence to solve even seemingly minor disputes is intensified by a high gun prevalence and easy firearm accessibility as well as the wide distribution of and attachment to gangs. Firearms as well as delinquent gangs are two powerful factors that accord power, a feeling of strength and superiority to the individual. Status, power and respect rank high within the impecunious underclass society in Jamaica. Violence is perceived as a necessary instrument to sustain the own identity, status and respect. Thus, the fight for respect in the street culture of Jamaica’s urban inner-city youth depicts an act in self-defence for the parties involved. And such an act in self-defence legitimises to kill.
Advisors:Gless, Sabine
Committee Members:Aebersold, Peter
Faculties and Departments:02 Faculty of Law > Departement Rechtswissenschaften > Fachbereich Strafrecht > Professur für Strafrecht und Strafprozessrecht (Gless)
UniBasel Contributors:Gless, Sabine and Aebersold, Peter
Item Type:Thesis
Thesis Subtype:Doctoral Thesis
Thesis no:9029
Thesis status:Complete
Number of Pages:287 S.
Identification Number:
edoc DOI:
Last Modified:22 Jan 2018 15:51
Deposited On:21 May 2010 06:46

Repository Staff Only: item control page