Sunday, 18 October 2009

Visible injustice

Some of the first local victims of the new approach to Community Pay Back are a small group of offenders who refused the highest visibility task of helping clear up the main shopping street in town. According to the local paper yesterday, they now face the possibility of being re-sentenced.

The public and editorial lines, which I’m sure fully accords with local opinion, are that those convicted of anti-social behaviour should not just be ashamed but should be willing to be publically shamed. It seems futile to point out that the legislation claimed to be about satisfying the public appetite for the visibility of justice and not about satisfying the public appetite for removing offenders' dignity.

The Church Times published an article of mine at the end of May (most of the material for which for which I’d blogged here first) in which I identified the fine line between engaging communities and humiliating offenders, between making justice public and putting offenders on display. The line is crossed here, and it will be incredibly sad if it turns out to mean that one of these offender ends up invisibly and expensively in prison (from where his chances of re-offending would be high) rather than discreetly and cheaply in community work (from where his chance of rehabilitation are higher).

Meanwhile, I turned up at Matins at St Nicolas’ early this morning to find I couldn't get though the churchyard gate because a rotten tree on the side of the road was being nosily removed. The workmen were very nice, said the day and time was dictated by the need to work when the road wasn’t busy, and they promised to have finished by main service time. A colleague took this photograph of them at work.

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