In their all consuming quest to appear 'tough' on crime, government ministers are looking at plans to distribute leaflets to 'name and shame' offenders who have been convicted in local courts. Apparently, making calling community service 'Community Payback' instead and making those on it where high vis jackets simply isn't enough posturing for the government.
'Tough' Measures for Trivial Crimes
According to a report in the Guardian (25/02/09) "Lack of confidence in community payback is one of the primary reasons governments feel forced to build more expensive prisons". To the government's and the media's way of thinking the response to crime needs to be good hard punishment to deter the offender and others from committing more offences. But what good does this actually do?
One of the of adopting measures on the basis of 'toughness' is that it makes them very unlikely to do anything about the reasons why someone is actually committing a crime. Having a criminal record excludes people from certain jobs, and prisons are not exactly the places to send people if you want them to come out completely reformed (with a 60-odd% recidivism rate). Naming and shaming someone for a trivial offence only will serve to add to this problem.
Aim some 'Tough' Measures Elsewhere
Whilst those guilty of minor offences are to be named and shamed, people causing far greater damage often escape unnoticed. And by this I don't just mean the big bankers and the recently exposed fraudsters - I mean those responsible for devastating cuts to local public services, for huge job losses, destroying the environment etc. Indeed, the one area where naming and shaming might be of some use is with people who try to make themselves appear 'respectable'.
But this isn't really what I want to get at. 'Tough' measures need to be taken to put our economy into the hands of ordinary people so masses of profits won't just be tucked away in some Cayman Islands account but be spent on providing meanigful jobs for people, decent homes etc. so that those who commit crime for economic reasons (or reasons flowing from that) have no need to do so.