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Community Payback to Be More Stringent, Says Blunt

Posted on the 24 August 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Community Payback to be more stringent, says Blunt

Ministry of Justice. Photocredit: ahabeland

The Community Payback Scheme allows courts to sentence certain convicted criminals to do between 20 and 300 hours of demanding and unpaid community service. Over 100,000 offenders a year (across England and Wales) are given community sentences, and 8.8 million hours of unpaid work is done. These are mostly tasks such as cleaning graffiti and clearing up litter; they’ve often been criticised as a “soft penalty,” said The Daily Telegraph.

Now the Ministry of Justice is issuing instructions to courts to make sure that unemployed offenders who are sentenced to the “community payback” programme work for 28 hours over a four-day week. The fifth will be spent looking for jobs, or else allowances will be taken away. Offenders will have to work within seven days of sentencing (as opposed to the two weeks it currently takes). Guidelines previously allowed offenders to work for as little as 8 hours per week. The aim is to get offenders back into the habit of work.

The Guardian quoted prisons and probation minister, Crispin Blunt: “If you are unemployed and on community payback you shouldn’t be sitting idle at home watching daytime television or hanging about with your mates on a street corner. You should be out paying back to your community… through hard, honest work.” Hard honest work, yes; redecorating Jacqui Smith’s house – perhaps not.

Harry Fletcher,  assistant general secretary of the probation union, NAPO, said: “The scheme will only be viable if it is properly resourced, if it doesn’t put council workers out of work and that the offenders are fit to carry out the tasks.”

As he launched the scheme, Blunt also claimed that prisons would be able to cope with the rioters, as the riots were a “one-off”, causing some ire from George Eaton on The New Statesman blog who said that  Crispin Blunt is being premature – there is “every possibility of further civil unrest.” The prison population’s now at “a record high of 86,654”, with only 1,439 places to go before it hits “operational capacity”. Prison is doing little more than “banging people up.”

  • Is it more to do with money? The Huffington Post said there were concerns that the new measures “look suspiciously like cost-saving measures,” whilst Tim Montgomerie on Conservative Home said it was all to do with the Tories wanting to look tougher on law and order, as the public will only be able to stomach non-custodial sentences if they’re made more stringent.
  • Looking for a job takes time. The Daily Express quoted an unemployed 21-year-old from Croydon, who had completed 10 out of 150 hours of Community Payback for keeping three illegal dogs in his one-bedroom flat: “You can’t look for a job for one day. You can’t have one day of looking nine till five, you won’t get nowhere,” he said.
  • Working for the community is good. The Huddersfield Daily Examiner was all for it. “In West Yorkshire, it seems, the intensive approach is already being put into place. Offenders are starting their community work within 48 hours of leaving court and will be expected to work a minimum 28 hours a week. Doubtless many presumed that is what already happened and will find little to argue with if that now becomes the expectation. Rehabilitation after all, begins with recognising the crime and working for the community is surely a good place to start.”

More on justice

  • DSK walks free
  • Sentencing backlash for riots
  • Hackgate swings back open
  • Mubarak trial postponed
  • Riots: sentencing and moral decay
  • Police cuts: Necessary or not?

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