Jermaine is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Howard University. His primary research interest focuses on the nexus between emergency powers and criminal justice in colonial and postcolonial Jamaica. His work has been published in the Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies and Political Studies Review. He holds a Ph.D. from Florida International University.
States of exception as paradigms of government: emergency and criminal justice in Jamaica?
Emergencies/exceptions are presumed to be disruptive events which are inherently dangerous to the normal workings of a nation-state. Declarations of emergency by governments of all types around the world to deal with a variety of crises have prompted Italian political philosopher Giorgio Agamben to characterize them as “the dominant paradigm of government” (2005). This paper explores the Jamaican government’s penchant for using emergency powers to curb high homicide rates. During 2017–2020, Jamaica has declared and operated several States of Emergencies (SOEs) and Zones of Special Operations (ZOSOs) to address what are usually considered ordinary criminal justice matters. In this paper, I argue that the resulting anomalies, such as arbitrary plus extended detentions and internal extraordinary renditions, have placed Jamaica in a quasi-permanent “state of exception” in which the constitutional rights of some citizens have been compromised in the name of state security. This paper contributes to the growing literature on how blurry the lines between norm and emergency/exception have become across different global jurisdictions.