Monday, 10 September 2007

Ah diddums!

Convicted criminals working in the community are to be barred from wearing fluorescent jackets because their feelings might be hurt if passers-by hurl abuse, it emerged last night.

Government officials are worried about the health and safety of burglars and thugs if they can be identified as they carry out their punishments.

In a spectacular U-turn, probation staff have been told to stop putting up signs saying street work is being carried out by convicts - or forcing them to wear bright yellow jackets branded 'Community Payback'.

Instead, a small plaque will be erected long after the yobs have gone, to make sure their delicate sensibilities are not put at risk.
So, I guess my oft-stated proposals for the reintroduction of the stocks and the pillory would not find favour with the current government?

It's a pity that the government has backed down over this. Ultimately, there are two primary aspects to public punishments such as this. The first is that it allows the public to see justice being done. This benefit will be largely lost thanks to these proposals. After all, while some people may see a sign saying that criminals have been carrying out a community sentence in the vicinity, this is hardly the same as actually seeing the punishment in action - really it is little different from reading about it in a newspaper. And the only people who will see the punishment in action, will be unaware that it is, in fact, a punishment. All that they will see will be a group of men working.
The second aspect to such punishment is the element of public humiliation that it inflicts upon the criminal. I believe that the humiliation a criminal can experience from being forced to do (ideally) demeaning work can serve as a strong deterrent against repeating his crime. This is particularly so for the kind of petty thug who derives enjoyment from low-level harassment of the law-abiding, and who fixates over "respect". Forcing a criminal to wear a uniform that distinguishes him from ordinary, law-abiding, workmen, and allowing the public to vent their anger upon him, is a significant part of the humiliation, and of the consequent deterrent effect. The basic part of the humiliation - being required to do demeaning work - will remain, but the parts that render the humiliation truly public, and thereby instill a sense of shame in the criminal, will be lost thanks to the government's latest surrender.

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