Thursday, September 02, 2010

Unpaid Skiving?

Tonight, 2nd September, at 7.30 on ITV try not to miss the half-hour exposé (or so it is trailed) of sloppily-run community punishment projects.


I am sure that it came as no surprise to anyone in the system to hear that a number of projects are poorly managed and casually supervised. I have been writing on here for years about the dozens of times that governments have promised 'really tough' community punishments. On the whole it hasn't happened. There are myriad problems, starting with Probation's chronic under-funding, the legacy of its social-worker 'advise, assist, befriend' culture, the burden of health and safety and other rules that make much meaningful work out of the question, the lack of real sanctions against (mostly) disaffected young men who just want to doss about, as young men do. Offenders cannot be allowed to do work that would usually be done by paid employees, as the state has no business putting people out of work.

Louise Casey had the effrontery to sound cross about the shambles that ITV showed us: as the person who cooked up the bogus 'community payback' brand and insisted on orange jackets being worn she might have had the decency to rebrand it 'community layback'.

Quite a few of us on the bench prefer, when the choice is available, to impose a tagged curfew. It can be imposed without the delay of a report, it is a real punishment that amounts to house arrest, and it is managed by contractors that are professionally managed, so once you are tagged it is comply, or face breach proceedings.

For years the argument has been that courts will only use community service if it is properly demanding and properly enforced. Many of us suspected it was not, and we may well have been right.

If you misssed the programme you can catch it at ITV player.

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