Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Tory plans for public humiliation of offenders by making them wear orange jump suits, benefits and social housing withdrawal is misguided and wrong
One of the narratives developed very quickly in wake of the riots in England was it was the fault of the unemployed.
But the reality was that many sections of society rioted and looted, from those working in schools, at school, graphic designers and rich middle class university students.
At present there is an idea on the go which will see every offender released from jail be met “at the prison gates” by employment experts.
This is the new plan to prevent a repeat of last week’s riots, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has pledged.
The problem is; how many menial jobs are available?
And less we forget, we have a society were people in society are effectively screened out from advancement.
Another issue is that those coming out at the prison gates may also not have housing or money.
We have a high return of offenders back to prison.
We as taxpayers shell out £40k a year to keep them there and receive a poor return.
In a move that is likely to cause upset, this Tory/Lib Dem scheme will also operate in Scotland even though the widespread violence and looting affected only English cities.
A major problem and flaw in the scheme is that there is no change to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, and as such those who previously couldn’t get a job because of their past, will still be in the same boat!
Lets us remember as well, most of the rioting took place at night and at the weekend, the scheme cannot address that.
And does anyone think that placing someone in a dead end job on minimum wage with no prospects or future advancement will create happy citizens?
I would suggest not.
With the issues of cuts looming, a leading Scottish charity has warned the policies of the Coalition Government could soon mean there was “no-one left” to carry out the specialist work.
Apex Scotland, which helps offenders into jobs, said it has had to lay off many of its staff since June when the UK Government cut off its funding.
Add to that job centre staff being laid off and the scheme is doomed to fail, you can sign up people to anything against their will but you will not win their goodwill.
A key component of changing lives.
Under the plans, from next March former prisoners who want to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance will have to sign up to a back to work scheme.
As does everyone else at present, so, what’s new?
Are these measures designed to end the “dismal cycle of repeat crime”, I would say no, they don’t seem well thought-out, in fact, they appear knee jerk.
Nick Clegg has also announced measures that would see rioters in England taking part in community payback schemes, dressed in orange clothing.
The idea being to humiliate and degrade offenders in public which goes against the Human Rights Act as the clothing is there to make a spectacle of these people in a public forum.
This will lead to people saying ‘f*ck you, jail me’ instead.
Clegg isn’t taking the right approach but he has distance himself from Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, who suggested convicted rioters should lose their benefits.
So, with no money and no accommodation, does the coalition think people will just quietly die?
Clegg warns this could have “unintended consequences”.
A rise in crime particularly violence against the person would be the result.
If the person gets caught, well, he gets three hot meals and a bed, and once out, he can start the cycle again.
And we should any offender co-operate with anyone at the prison gates if they get nothing if Iain Duncan Smith gets his way?
There is a lot of talk about punishment, but surprisingly little considered action on how to fix the problem.
So, here is a George Laird idea to give people a stake in society.
We have people disenfranchised, some of them are unemployed; we should allow the unemployed to work while keeping their full current benefits up to a certain level.
That way we deliver them a stake in society, we encourage them to save, we allow them to spend in shops and we create a situation where if they misbehave they genuinely can experience a sense of loss.
If they earn above a certain level, they come off benefits and we also lift the cap on savings so it doesn’t affect things like dental treatment etc.
This way rather than riot and loot, they can simply buy the things they want and feel a sense of pride, eventually with other measures we can build on having strong communities, something I continually blog on.
However, all this has to work in an encompassing strategy but much can work stand alone it has to be said.
We need to deal with drug culture but we can’t do that without killing the illegal market, and the only way to do that is by legalisation.
Money generated can be ring fenced to be ploughed back into deprived communities to rebuild them and other projects deemed socially beneficial.
The Tories and their Lib Dems partners badly handled the riots, in the aftermath; they are falling back to ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’.
We will see more riots during this Tory/Lib Dem government at Westminster.
It is because, the deep rage and hate isn’t being dealt with by effective solutions.
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University