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Does community service work?

10:58 UK time, Thursday, 2 September 2010

Undercover footage of criminals drinking tea and smoking illegal drugs has led to criticism that community service is like a "holiday camp". Is community service too easy?

The pictures were filmed by ITV1's Tonight programme and have led to the government's victims' commissioner, Louise Casey, saying that it is "disgraceful". She wants the current system to be radically changed.

The investigation comes as Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke puts forward plans for more offenders to do community service instead of short prison sentences.

Do community service sentences adequately punish the offender? Should there be wider use of community service rather than using short prison sentences? Does there need to be a revision of the Community Payback scheme rather than reverting back to prison sentences?

This debate has now been closed. Thank you for your comments.


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  • Comment number 1.

    I think community service is a good punishment. For a start its alot less cushy than prison. Your average criminal does not have a job and having to actaully do a days work is a punishment to them. I think it should be used more especially for a first offence, but I think the amount given should be increased. There should be a bank of people on community service where say an elderly person can call and get someone round to fix the garden for example. Make it more personal. Second offence straight to prison.

  • Comment number 2.

    We are hamstrung by idiotic notions of 'human rights' for people who clearly have no regard for others' human rights....

    A look at documentaries of other countries (including the US) show prisoners in cells with multiple prisoners, no TVs, no playstations, no pandering.

    Can anyone, please, tell me why we shouldn't have that here?

  • Comment number 3.

    The reason why community service doesn't work is because, the people who are meant to inforce community service either don't have any powers to force these people, or just think the hassle just isn't worth the effort on council staff wages.

    The community service should be taken over by the CSO (community support officer) devision of the police, so that when convicted people are sentenced to do community service, they actually do it or face stiffer punishment from people who inforce the law.

  • Comment number 4.

    Like any attempt at making a lifestyle change, the individual involved has to really, really WANT to make that change.

    Attending community service in a spirit of getting it done, getting it over with, isn't going to make the offender any different: but those who grasp the opportunity of structured support to turn their life around, to not even want to do whatever their offence was again, have a good chance of making that change happen.

    It's the same with gaol. Some people realise that they need to do something about their life, others just do their time and come out again no better a person than they were when they went in.

    We as a society need to make sure that structured, constructive support is available... but the offender has to decide for himself that he wants to make use of it.

  • Comment number 5.

    Is this news? Community service has never been a punishment.

  • Comment number 6.

    Community service is an excellent way to make minor criminals give back to society. It gives them a chance to put something back to the community & maybe learn new skill which could help them get a job. What could be better is the supervision of these people.

  • Comment number 7.

    Drinking tea? Dear god. Off with their heads!

  • Comment number 8.

    The problem is that, far too often, Community Service is seen as the soft option and reports such as this give credence to that belief.

    Having said that I think that far too many people are sent to prison when an effective Community Service would be of greater benefit to both the offender and his/her family and to the Community. Also, if the breadwinner is in prison the family will then be claiming benefits.

    Community Service needs to be seen as a punishment and I would suggest that offenders are 'tagged' for the full period of the Community Order as well as undertaking proper work within the community on evenings and weekends (to enable them to find work during the week!).

  • Comment number 9.

    Does community service work?

    Sorry, no idea.

    I don't live that lifestyle and I don't move in those circles.

    I could just regurgitate something I read in the Mail - but that doesn't really count as an opinion, does it?

  • Comment number 10.

    For community service to be effective those undergoing it must be required to work hard, and they must be closely supervised. All the evidence I've seen suggests that neither requirement is being met. This means that minor criminals are neither being punished nor reformed.
    It's an easy option for politicians, judges and magistrates - a tick in the box, no great cost, problem gone away. Only it hasn't, of course - look at reoffending rates.
    How about bringing back the stocks? A short, humiliating, very low cost punishment which few offenders would want to repeat. I expect the 'human rights' movement would veto that; they prefer crime to flourish rather than punish anyone.

  • Comment number 11.

    Given the cost of incarceration,Community Service is an excellent alternative to prison providing its correctly supervised,& represents a real opportunity for offenders to give something back to society & make reparation thereof.

    For first time offenders & general non-violent crimes,it should always be considered as a primary option in sentencing.

    I've no objection to the odd tea break being allowed,once tasks are completed,or seen to be on schedule for the day by a competent supervisor in charge. Anything else ought to be subject to the usual sanctions, which presumably must be available to administrators of the project.

    Lets treat this report as an incentive to manage the scheme better,rather than revert to a 'knee jerk' reaction, sending more offenders into our overcrowded prisons,& running the real risk of them being hardened into worse criminals by virtue of what they've experienced within them.

  • Comment number 12.

    On the surface, from this latest 'sting', it looks as though the Probation Trust is a failed 'quango' that is over-funded and dangerously under-staffed by adequately trained professionals on the ground to enforce Community Service by offenders?

    This is an obvious responsibility of the Ministry of Justice, and the new Coalition Minister responsible - Ken Clarke MP QC?

    It would be helpful if Ken Clarke MP QC took the time to be interviewed by Newsnight to explain what HE is doing since coming to Office, what HE intends to do to resolve this serious issue and reassure the public and justify his position - considering his recent comments against, short term jail sentences, and his interest in more community 'sentences'?

  • Comment number 13.

    Community service works as well as a chocolate tea pot

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    AndyC555 wrote:
    A look at documentaries of other countries (including the US) show prisoners in cells with multiple prisoners, no TVs, no playstations, no pandering.

    Can anyone, please, tell me why we shouldn't have that here?

    Probably because their crime rates are more often than not several times higher than ours.
    The murder rate per capita is three times higher in the United States than in the UK and their rape rate per capita is double that of the UK.

    Only an idiot would want to copy the United States justice system, unless of course you want to increase our serious crime rates to bring them into line with theirs.

    Regardless of the lies and propaganda spread by our tabloids the United Kingdom remains one of the safest places to live and you are far less likely to be the victim of crime here than in most other countries.

  • Comment number 16.

    Of course it doesnt, most people sentenced to community service have no respect for the law in the first place so why would they have any respect for what is a sop to the PC do-gooders and professional apologists?

    Only yesterday a man was sentenced to 4 years for stabbing someone to death with a pair of scissors in Glasgow, I'm no expert but what does that mean - out in two? It is obvious that we have a judiciary that are frightened to send people to jail for any sort of meaningful sentence, even after all of the last governments promises to crack down on crime.

    Jail should be the penultimate deterrent, the sort of place that even the hardest of hard men never want to go back to and not a Holiday Inn witha fence. Now with Ken Clark forming policy I am even more worried what will happen next. Maybe a £10 Argos voucher for every mugging conviction you get.......

  • Comment number 17.

    What makes people so sure that community sentencing works?

    Does it not occur to anyone that this system of punishment creates a link in the mind between doing work which benefits the community, and punishment? Would this not make you more resentful of society, and incline you towards further anti-social behaviour?

  • Comment number 18.

    A look at documentaries of other countries (including the US) show prisoners in cells with multiple prisoners, no TVs, no playstations, no pandering.

    Can anyone, please, tell me why we shouldn't have that here?

    Because Cherie Blair, Shami Chakrabati and their ilk wouldn't allow it !!!

  • Comment number 19.

    The penal system is a joke, not just community service.
    Prisoners rights bill??? That should be scrapped, and prisons should be like in the Victorian era.
    That would prove to be a deterrent. Unlike now where they have a TV games console, internet etc.
    Prison should be a punishment and not the cushy number it is now

  • Comment number 20.

    Well certainly in the three areas highlighted by this documentary it seems not to be working. I am sure that it isn't like this all over the country but at the end of the day it seems to be treated as a joke - a badge of honour, like an ASBO. Punishment should be just that. If it was up to me it would be far more of a punishment but one has to remember their human rights. You can't go around handing out punishment to muggers and shoplifters and petty criminals like sweets. Whatever next - sending people to prison for the full term of their sentence? Outrageous. The European Court of Human Rights would be furious. Give them new identities and send them to live in Australia away from all the nasty families of the murdered victims and media who hound their every waking moment and what for? Just because they murdered someone in cold blood?? I don't know what this country is coming to!
    Yes I am being cynical and sarcastic but I am 45 years old now and once again another brand of government is in charge and it is the same old rubbish with everyone seemingly powerless, or too spineless to tackle the real problems with law and order. Nothing will ever change because the criminals rights seem to be more important than the victim. This community service scam is the thin end of the wedge. I have a friend who was in Channings Wood prison and who used to 'shop' from an Argos catalogue from his cell. Place orders with the warders via the correct channels and had, amongst other things, a digital radio delivered to him. WHAT IS THAT ALL ABOUT????????

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    Perhaps Community Service could be a little more imaginative than at present. Washing off graffiti, and picking up litter, is hardly tough love.
    There are hundreds of miles of footpaths in our National Parks, in urgent need of renovation. Why not use this punitive pool of penal labour to undertake the work, which would be of real benefit to the nation, and would slash the enormous cost of restoring our damaged footpaths.

  • Comment number 23.

    I don't know as I only listen to media,government and the tabloid press....what is clear is that it costs a lot of cash to set up schemes and run them more than the country can afford..

    They should concentrate on exclusion practiced by government on benefit and jobs to see improvements in crime levels.

    No ansawer here so far?

  • Comment number 24.

    Punishment is a medieval way of looking at crime.
    2 wrongs equal a right ?
    How can you rehabilitate - someone who dosent want to be rehabilitated?

    You provide them with a worthwhile goal, a goal which occupies body and soul.

    How do you provide this goal --- ??
    Perhaps thats the wrong question - perhaps the right question is how do you change society enough to try some really different things - things that perhaps have been done in the past but have been abandoned for various reasons -

    Perhaps as long as the press provides knee jerk responses change will not be possible.

  • Comment number 25.

    Governments change but the failure of ideas remain...clearly government needs to loose 1.5 million jobs we all hope that the jobs lost will be those of the sporn of this failed idea?Media disinformation programes don't change why or an ideal world there should be no need for community service....

  • Comment number 26.

    Does it not occur to anyone that this system of punishment creates a link in the mind between doing work which benefits the community, and punishment? Would this not make you more resentful of society, and incline you towards further anti-social behaviour?

    Yes the current confrontational system will create polarisation not intergration...

    Polarisation as with many other conflicts in the world will empty the taxpayers pockets before any good will come of community service.They sound desperate?

  • Comment number 27.

    "Does community service work?"

    don't rightly know but the concept is good, better than imprisoning or fining people for petty offenses (like dropping litter) anyway.

    in the US of A they've had some success:

    "A year-long study of the first cohort that went through the programme, which was founded in Massachusetts in 1991, found that only 19% had reoffended compared with 42% in a control group."

  • Comment number 28.

    Don't know the figures for re-offending after community service but judging from the news reports it does not look like punishment. Likewise I don't know what would be if these low lifes were birched instead. We will never get the chance because we all have to love them, try to understand them and their rights to do anything they want are protected under the human rights act.

  • Comment number 29.

    My friend recently recieved 150hours of community service for dangerous driving (tray sliding his car around an empty car park on cctv) he's not the smartest of people I must admit. He's serving his community service in a town charity shop, from what I understand how he performs is completly up to the person signing his community service forms. If they don't think he's been up to the job they can say so on his form. If he misses work or skives they can report him and he will go back to court.

    Surely if somebody is stood having a nice cuppa brew and a hectic J whilst they are supposed to be doing community service there supervisor isn't really up to the job. I think community service is a very good idea as long as it is correctly enforced.

  • Comment number 30.

    You cannot fail to punish convicted criminals simply because the system can't cope, whether that be incarceration or community sentences. We need to get these "community criminals" into a goolag environment where they are excommunicated and forced into labour. (Not the party, I'm not that hard). We must own a remote island somewhere with a couple of quarries and a uranium mine or similar ?

  • Comment number 31.

    I would say it is farily obvious, from the report on the BBC website and comments made by those 'sentenced' to community service, it is a complete failure.

    The sentence seems to be more of a pass time to most of those charged. A chance to kick back with friends or colleagues, enjoy a tea or a smoke (legal or otherwise) and discuss plans for the weekend (legal or otherwise). Society needs to get serious with criminal behaviour and deal with it as a crime not as a cry for help by a few misguided children.

    What is a suitable sentence or punishment? I don't know, I'm not a social worker or a criminologist but it is obvious this, like calling someone as ASBO, is just ignoring the problem hoping it will go away. If we need to spend more money on crime and punishment then that's what we'll have to do. If it means keeping people in prison for longer periods of time them that's what we'll have to do. If that means they lose some of the perks of being in jail than that's what we'll have to do.

  • Comment number 32.

    Community service must work, getting criminals to do some work or give back to the community is a good thing.

    However, just because in some cases the community service is or has been badly managed it does not make it wrong, it just means it needs to be run better.

    Personally I think dancing criminals is the way to go, that would give me a right laugh and make up for the fact that someone has assulted me or broken into my house or stolen my car

    ...OooOooh a dancing queen...I can see it now..quick Mildred, get the sequins..

  • Comment number 33.

    One of those who made a comment suggested that individual people should be able to acquire the services of a community server. I tried to get one to clean my high windows a coupleof years back but was told that only bodies of people (eg councils, companies etc) could be accommodated. I suppose that the reason is that servers have to be overseen while they do their work. I was disappointed. Clearing litter or sweeping roads is not serving people; it's serving communities. There's nothing wrong with that but what about people who really need, say, some maintenance on their house eg window frames painted?

  • Comment number 34.

    I think there is something quite odd and strange about the concept of community service! It seems to me, and correct me if I am wrong - but community service is designed as a form of punishment which entails, predominately unemployed petty criminals, being forced to do essential or useful work for the community - to teach them a lesson,and as a negative consequence of their actions in breaking a law! This system of 'work' for punishment, has been designed by the same groups in society that constantly complain that our 'unemployed' do not possess a positive attitude to work or have no work ethic!! Surely, using work as a form of punishment does absolutely nothing to provide an association of work as a positive activity? It makes work something negative and a punishment? How does that work or contribute to creating a work ethic among those punished through forced 'work'?

  • Comment number 35.

    As we cannot control many pupils in our schools, I find it difficult to see how we are able to find individuals who have the skill, character and powers to enforce discipline on our criminals in fairly 'open' situations. There is,of course, no reason why community service shouldn't work in a disciplined society. Unfortunately, we don't have one.

  • Comment number 36.

    Does Community Sentencing work?

    That surely depends entirely on the individual.

    Some offenders may find community service is a deterrent, for some offenders a custodial sentence is more appropriate and for the other habitual 'career criminals' I guess nothing works.

    I have no issue with an offender wanting to be rehabilitated, but many of them don't.

    If community service helps young offenders feel part of the community and gives them work experience and pride in a job well done then it is worthwhile.

    If community service is seen by the offender as just an easy alternative to a custodial sentence then it isn't.

    Those that choose to break the cycle of reoffending and choose to be rehabilitated should be given every opportunity available.

  • Comment number 37.

    The tonight programme is sensationalist. They will always make things out to be the worst they can. I bet they could make a programme about how bad fluffy pillows are if they tried.

    As to the question does community service work - well like most things, it does for some and it doesn't for others. If it's done properly it will be more succesful than if it's not.

  • Comment number 38.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 39.

    No matter what, I can never get a comment published

  • Comment number 40.

    The point about community Service is that we don't have enough prison places for the number of custodial sentences we already give out, so it is fairly pointless wanting to reduce them and make the prison situation even worse. We need to better define what warrants a prison term and what is better dealt by some other method. But society won't start winning until it manages to create citizens who instinctively want to do the right thing, in the first place. When considering punishment options you are already dealing with the symptoms not the causes. But short term, better discipline / control of community service seems necessary.

  • Comment number 41.

    On another topic last week someone raised what I thought was a brilliant idea.

    If we cant afford to either imprison criminals or build more prisons why dont we sub-contract it out to countries with spare prison beds? There are several eastern european countries that spring to mind, after all their prisons must be empty as all their criminals are over here!

  • Comment number 42.

    A bigger population needs more jails. Anything less is simply creating problems for the future.

  • Comment number 43.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 44.

    At least community service gives the criminals a good chance to look at where their next job might be.
    This country is fast becoming the laughing stock of the rest of the world, that's if we aren't already.
    The good old liberal minded strike again.

  • Comment number 45.

    Every person who receives some form of Government help via food stamps, unemployment checks, free housing, medical etc should be made to contribute to society via service to the society in form of voluntary physical contribution. No human should get something for FREE, this will make the Free valueless, this person will then think that the society owes him/her free stuff, it makes them lazy, makes them less motivated, makes them sit in the front of the TV and brook. Every healthy society should make its people work for an living, there should be no FREE giveaways, especially to those who breed irresponsibly and make everyone else pay for it. The best way to destroy democracy is to let the ignorant breed.

  • Comment number 46.

    34 The Ghosts of John Galt

    It seems you are against any attempt to save the taxpayers £27000 per year per prisoner by finding other methods of punishment apart from keeping them locked up.

    Some do see work as a form of punishment hence so many trying to avoid it and none of us live to work we only work to live.

  • Comment number 47.

    15 - That doesn't answer my question.

    Regardless of the crime rates, why shouldn't imprisonment be a more basic and harsh regime?

    Do you think that anyone in prison says to themselves "well I was going to lead an honest life but as they didn't give, me a playstation I'll go on a crime spree when I get out of here"? Only an idiot would think that.

    It's not about crime rates in other countries, it's about punishment in this one.

    Why shouldn't prisons be a more basic punishment?

  • Comment number 48.

    By all means get prisoners into a routine doing a job but under no circumstances let them home at night. Back to prison for the lot of them. Also keep them under guard at all times.

  • Comment number 49.

    there was a time when kids used to play 'kick the tin'in the twilight hours of autumn,an exciting time for kids before responding to the call for bedtime,that was then when days and nights were clad in cotton wool and people loved each other without any ill feeling or bawling the kids down because of their heaven sent happiness.
    If a kid makes a noise today,heaven is shut down,and all the tins are selected for recycling,and community service is marked up for down grading the local village and the green is seldom used to encourage young life to be happy.
    The mood of the nation is below the norm and if to play music is a paupers dream,and happy hour means the pub,what on earth has any kid done to deserve the harsh treatment of joining the chain gang?
    And where does life begin if not in the heart and mind of a kid in the street?

  • Comment number 50.

    Does community service work? Funny, lol! really lol! I cant stop laughing.

  • Comment number 51.

    Does community service work?

    Can the BBC not get the figures as to reoffending rates, as compared to prisoners, from the relevant office? Seems curious to ask us if they really want to know.

    As far as I can see, so long as they are no worse, then CS would appear to save us a lot of money for no extra crime burden.

  • Comment number 52.

    Drinking tea? Dear god. Off with their heads!
    Imagine if it had been a Skinny Late!

    Most of the time custodial and non custodial punishments don't work.

    Non custodial punishments combined with some form of victim confrontation do seem to have a more positive outcome and also benefit from being far cheaper than custodial sentencing.

    Worth remembering that the biggest reason for female imprisonment in the UK is for non payment of a fine relating to not having a TV licence. Which of course should be a civil debt in the first place,you wouldn't be sent to jail for not paying your Sky subscription!

  • Comment number 53.

    A bigger population needs more jails. Anything less is simply creating problems for the future.

    So why does USA with a population 5 times that of the UK have 35 times as many people in prison?

  • Comment number 54.

    No matter what, I can never get a comment published

    Well done you broke your duck!

  • Comment number 55.

    I visited Burma on business a few years back and found first hand what happens if you are convicted of a criminal offence. Firstly there is no bail system, monetary fines for petty crime must be paid either by the criminal or his family before he is released. If the crime demands imprisonment, no assistance is given to that person's welfare so medical, food and clothing must be provided by the prisoners' family by daily visits. If the imprisonment includes hard labour such as road or bridge repairing, that is put into effect by chain gangs, yes chain gangs, all under strict supervision.
    I offer this for comparison purposes only, I do not propose we adopt anything like these draconian measures, more to illustrate just how lucky our criminal fraternity are that they don't live in Burma! What I do say is that we have got ourselves into a mess on a number of fronts such as a lack of secure prison places, the introduction of Human Rights legislation parts of which have been demonstrated to be counter productive, the decline of personal and collective responsibility and many many more issues.
    Community service only addresses those who have committed petty crimes, it does not address the more serious crimes which some countries solve by secondment into the armed forces without pay but with medical and sustenance provided. Other countries resolve prison overcrowding by secondment to commercial contractors owned by their government to do hard labour without pay but may be compensated only at the end of his/her term.
    My point is that none of these countries use Community Service as a means of punishment because it doesn't work, they simply abscond to carry on their unlawful activities. Maybe one day we will have legislators who have the skills and knowledge to propose legislation that deals with petty crime effectively, it's the minimum we should expect for our own peace of mind and fears.

  • Comment number 56.

    Unfortunately any activity associated with the do-gooders in social services or the probation services is doomed to failure. These need to be replaced by people with some backbone - perhaps looking to the Army for an example. Pussy-footing around with trendy liberal ideals won't wash.

  • Comment number 57.

    It seems to work quite well in this area.

    Their productivity is several times greater than most of the council operatives who I see lounging against their trucks with their hands in their pockets and who clear off home at 3pm sharp every day except Friday, when lunchtime signals the end of their "working" week.

  • Comment number 58.

    Why should drinking tea and smoking pot mean that community service is too easy? I was a CSV once, of my own volition, and it certainly wasn't easy. CS encompasses many different roles, but if anyone thinks that caring for the sick, elderly or disabled over a 24h period is easy, then they don't know what they are on about and they insult all those who have to care for sick or severely disabled loved ones 24/7 without any choice in the matter! Furthermore, why must people howl for blood? It is not simply a question of 'punishment' but a matter of rehabilitation and integration of criminals into society. Lust for vengeance achieves no good.

  • Comment number 59.

    I would like to see young criminals sent to a boot camp, ran by the Army and taught disipline and team work. My father who done his national service always said that it saved him from a life of crime and were the best years of his life. He made many life long friends and learnt a trade. National Service now, more than any other time would create a atmosphere were all colours, creed and religion have to work together or go to prison. I think maybe a lot would stay in the forces.

  • Comment number 60.

    Post 53..So why does USA with a population 5 times that of the UK have 35 times as many people in prison?

    Because they are not so soft on crime.
    Who cares what the % is.
    Just lock them up for longer or for good, criminals would soon get the message.
    Because re-offending is so high, doesn't that tell you something.
    How many more committees do we need looking into this, its not rocket science.

  • Comment number 61.

    Watched to program, pretty much what we already knew. After more than 100 days, the Tory/Libdem Government should have known as well.

  • Comment number 62.

    59. At 9:14pm on 02 Sep 2010, Alan wrote:

    I would like to see young criminals sent to a boot camp, ran by the Army and taught disipline and team work

    Against their human rights.

  • Comment number 63.

    i have recently completed some unpaid work and I can confirm everything what the programs shows it true. We were given 6.5 hours credit per day but only actually worked 2hrs per day. The rest was taken up drinking tea , lunch and waiting for supervivors to turn up. We did complete some good work for the community but much more could be done.

  • Comment number 64.

    Bring back national service, thats the answer. Stick them on the frontline then see if they offend again.

  • Comment number 65.

    As a volunteer I have witnessed two sessions of Community service. The first was in an animal sanctuary where having a cup of coffee whilst throwing a few hands of food into the pens demonstrated its futility as a punishment. The second was tree planting where some of the men worked hard whilst others just leant on their spades.

    So my view of it is somewhat jaundiced and I remain to be convinced that as a punishment it is a soft option which is not properly enforced.

  • Comment number 66.

    The evidence shows that community service is a "holiday camp" where offenders drink tea and smoke illegal drugs. In a sense it may work for probation officers who do not seem to have very much to do; but for the victims of crime it is a stout boot in the teeth.

    It would seem that for the public to know the truth about community service undercover investigations are required. The probation service does not seem fit for purpose?

  • Comment number 67.

    "...drinking tea and smoking illegal drugs"

    Non-criminals also do that at work...

  • Comment number 68.

    Well clearly if this and similar reports are anything to go by, it does not work.

    Perhaps we should look at building more prisons and using longer sentences, abolish early release and bring back whole life sentences.

    Rehabilitation should be done in the last few months of a prisoners release, and then once released you can tag them and have them do community service.

    And in the sprit of human rights, punish motoring offenders, poll tax and t.v licence offenders with community service, after all, they are not the mad dogs people think they are, and deserve a chance at rehabilitation

  • Comment number 69.

    Have to say I never thought the day would come when I would agree with The Ghosts of John Galt but what he says in post 34 is quite right. As an example, someone who is unemployed and causes criminal damage to a motor vehicle might well get 40 hours community service as a punishment. If the owner of the car is in full time employment he is already doing 40 hours work a week anyway. How does forcing the offender to do something the aggrieved is already doing equate to punishment bearing in mind that when the criminal has completed his 40 hours he just walks away. The aggreived continues with this 'punishment' every week for perhaps 45 years.

  • Comment number 70.

    May be she should serve time in jail under an undercover name and find out for her self what happens to her sexually there. Then let her do community service where she can drink her tea and smoke her joint among criminals and see how she likes it.

    Let the government take a bite out of her life at the loss of her job, home, family and loved ones.. Let her as well be forced to live on the streets with nothing, and doing anything to stay alive. See what she thinks of the penal system and society's pecking order. Then lets see what she has to say.

  • Comment number 71.

    The ITV programme, whilst important, is not evidence community service is a failure. It is evidence current processes are deeply flawed.

    What does a community service order seek to achieve? Is it simply an alternative 'punishment' to gaol, or is there a sense of trying to either otherwise humble an offender or, alternatively, give an opportunity for them to partially redeem their crime or offence and persevere through work? It is important for all concerned with criminal justice to be singing from the same hymn sheet and I get a strong sense of hearing a very off key song. Do our enforcers, advocates, judges and service supervisors know what the process is expected to produce?

    I will reserve my judgement on community service until essential procedural reforms are in operation. I'd also like to see a Plan B type community order (short of gaol) seeking to punish anyone who fails to deliver appropriately under Plan A.

  • Comment number 72.

    Why do those subscribing to the Daily Mail world view not recognise that prison does not work? There is little point in spending a small fortune locking people up if all it does is confirm them in a life of crime. Prison should be used only for those offenders deemed to be too dangerous to be allowed to remain in society. Much more imagination needs to be used in punishment for the rest. Compulsory contribution to socially responsible work is just one option. However, for offenders in work, we should consider that imprisonment would mean them losing their job. Therefore, in appropriate cases the court could ask their employer to demote them, thereby keeping them in work but at a lower salary and appropriate loss of prestige. The message we need to get across is that crime is an offence against society and will be punished by visible loss of status in society, not by being hidden away in prison.

  • Comment number 73.

    As someone who was once required to serve CS (back in my younger, more impressionable years), I personally found it helped keep me to see the benefits of doing something constructive in life.

    So those people in the documentary were drinking tea and smoking a bit of ganja, everyone is entitled to a tea break at some point, they're not slaves, they're not really committing any major crime either. At least it means they're not out there breaking and entering, stealing cars, or whatever.

    What's the alternative for people whose crimes only warrant CS? Do they really need locking up in some already overcrowded prison so they can learn new (criminal) skills?

  • Comment number 74.

    Any working system requires dedication and money. End of subject.

  • Comment number 75.

    It could work very well - if OUR Councils reconsidered their PC biassed atitudes and did what their local Tax-payers have a right to expect. It's time Communities DEMANDED adequate enforcement of this kind of punishment.

    Contact your local MP - and INSIST on rigid enforcement.

  • Comment number 76.

    Why do they keep on lying? All these posts saying "bring back Victorian/American prisons and punishments, THAT would deter them!"

    But you know it wouldn't, don't you. You obviously have access to a computer, you have a brain, and must have seen the evidence that harsher regimes do NOT deter. So why do you keep on saying that they do? Is it that fundamentally, you just get off on the idea of punishment, pain, retribution etc., even when it would make things worse, not better? That makes you hardly different from the criminals, doesn't it. So go and punish yourselves brutally. Mmmmm!

  • Comment number 77.

    For the so called lesser crimes that people like to call them, we had how own deterrent.
    They were called parents, a mum and a dad, or a mother and father.
    Now more and more the rest of society as to do that job.
    As a child and young man and in fact at any time, I've never found it a problem showing respect to others.
    I was punished as a child when I did wrong, once I'd served my punishment it was forgotten and we all moved on.
    I get fed up today with people always making excuses for people who do wrong.
    Nearly all of them know what they are doing, for that reason I think the punishment should be a deterrent, which it clearly isn't at the moment.
    We have clearly been soft on crime for more years than I care to remember.

  • Comment number 78.

    It should work, but it was never going to work as implemented by the previous Labour government. Managed correctly, this "punishment" could be an effective way to clear up communities blighted by hooliganism, graffiti, litter etc. As an ex-SNCO from the Armed Forces I would have no qualms about managing a team of unruly youths on a community project. Given the appropriate disciplinary powers and mandate, this would be an easy task.
    Our problem: we are far too soft, namby-pamby, touchy-feely, politically-correct, run-home-to-mummy, ambulance-chasing & pathetic.
    Easy option (favoured by the political elite): throw money at them and offer thugs help and support because they are victims of society. Nonsense.
    We reap what we sow.

  • Comment number 79.

    surely the measure is "does it reduce re-offending, when compared with prison?"
    Prison is terrible at reducing re-offending (if it was introduced now for the first time it would not last long, the re-offending rate would be all over the press).
    No matter what you may think of community service, and how much work is actually done, it is working for free (would you want to work for nothing? I think not) and everyone has something they would rather be doing. It does reduce re-offending and has a better success rate than the more expensive prison.

  • Comment number 80.

    Undercover footage of criminals drinking tea and smoking illegal drugs has led to criticism that community service is like a "holiday camp". Is community service too easy?

    The pictures were filmed by ITV1's Tonight programme and have led to the government's victims' commissioner, Louise Casey, saying that it is "disgraceful". She wants the current system to be radically changed.

    If community service is to work properly it has to be run properly, which by all accounts that isn'y happening at the moment.
    Community Service is cheaper than prison, but it should be properly overseen, which it is not, and with all the proposed cutbacks looming this isn't likely to get better untill someone with a modicom of common sence gets involved.

    So, short answer: No, it isn't working as it should, or as it could.

  • Comment number 81.

    prison life cannot possibly be of use to young offenders in a country hard on crime,with so much crime being committed on a daily basis there is no room to breathe let alone be reconditioned to serve a useful life when released.Would it be correct in saying that most of the observations made on youngsters doing community service are in the large towns and cities,already cluttered with to too many people,any way,depends on where the work load is directed from and in whose area the service is held.
    To observe a cause and comment on the same issue of reforming the law is outlandish in a nation that has bred crime for several hundred years,in fact other nations have learnt from the discovery of how to live on crime
    however basic the need for crime is,there is nothing selfish about crime in your own back yard,when it happens the law will add it's bit to defend the rights of the criminal while the victim can still go on observing an' cussing the remedy for letting loose on the community a much needed service,like picking up litter,cleaning areas where the good people have thrown their rubbish away and like every other remedy there will always be another day for collecting rubbish.

  • Comment number 82.

    Re post 78

    Chris - you're spot on. If you give people an excuse, they will use it.Poverty may explain criminal activity in some cases, but it does not excuse it. The majority of petty crime has little to do with poverty, more to do with a lack of respect for others, and often self respect.

    A relative of mine was involved in running the "short sharp shock" program tried by the Tories in the early 80's. (Cancelled owing to cost- no surprise there then!). One of the things that surprised the Prison Officers was the reaction of some of the lads they were working with - suddenly they had responsible adult role models telling them to clean their shoes, tidy themselves up, etc, and as importantly, when they did something right, they were praised for it. Probably the first time that had happened to a lot of them,and they benefited from it.

    Perhaps we should try running CS with ex Forces personnel in charge - lets see if that works.

    Chin chin


  • Comment number 83.

    If ever there was a more true statement which reflects public opinion, it`s comment 78. Having seen the reaction on TV by some individual representing legislative law, my initial thought was, what a farce. The guy should take up acting.

    There is a whole list a missed `jobs`. Holes in roads, tree pruning, farm land dry walls, removing junk from small rivers and streams. (suitably equipped). Litter picking and Sunday morning broken glass clear up. Chewing gum and graffiti removal.

  • Comment number 84.

    "The young people who I come across in my life doing this, seem a very nice bunch, but you get a few bad ones'? we had a few in a commuity centre who did a bit of building work, Many of them had probelms Drink, Drugs, mental, and others' I dont see it as punishment!!! but something for them to do in the daytime.

  • Comment number 85.

    It seems to work quite well in this area.

    Their productivity is several times greater than most of the council operatives who I see lounging against their trucks with their hands in their pockets and who clear off home at 3pm sharp every day except Friday, when lunchtime signals the end of their "working" week.

    Please let me know the location of this situation so that I can apply for a job my local authority expect a full days work (or more) for a full days pay (or less).
    Or does it just exist in your imagination or the pages of the Daily Mail?

  • Comment number 86.

    59. At 9:14pm on 02 Sep 2010, Alan wrote:

    I would like to see young criminals sent to a boot camp, ran by the Army and taught disipline and team work

    Against their human rights.
    No just an exceptionally expensive waste of time and resources.
    It's discipline by the way!

  • Comment number 87.

    I see we have the standard short sharp shock merchants.

    Please remember this has been tried before.

    In the 1980's under the Tories, Willie Whitelaw wanted to make life uncomfortable for young offenders.

    The idea was to subject them to a harsh training regime to shock them out of a life of crime.

    But the four experimental centres failed to have any impact on re-offending and were criticised for simply turning out fitter criminals.

    So expensive and didn't work.

  • Comment number 88.

    Prison may or may not rehabilitate, but it keeps them off the steets. It's better than spending money on schools, parks, libraries, roads, etc.

  • Comment number 89.

    It only works if the young people actually have to sweat a bit - invest some energy in whatever they're doing, so that they are angered if someone else comes along and destroys it. Only by giving them some investment in a project will they learn how it feels if it is then vandalised, damaged or broken.
    Projects have to be worthy, and hard work. They also have to have a point. Then it'll work.

  • Comment number 90.

    No: We should re-introduce the stocks in town centres, rotten cabbage, tomatoes and flogging.

  • Comment number 91.

    Free Work & Exploitation
    In the days of Slavery and Apartheid field workers smoked weed.

  • Comment number 92.

    It does not surprise me at the least. The laws of this land cuddle up to the criminal and discard the victim.

  • Comment number 93.

    Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke MP QC., now responsible, should find the stats and publish what 'Community Service' has achieved over the last five years perhaps?

    If Ken Clarke's only brief is to cut prison admissions - then that will certainly be a distorted stat for the next election?

    In conclusion, if the Justice Secretary Ken Clarke wishes to maintain credibility - then he must explain and provide clear evidence of his current views of reducing prision admissions, plus, his evidence that offender community service works for the offenders and their victims?

  • Comment number 94.

    I thought it was a bit stupid that they were washing cars as a community service as this is normally something that generates money for car wash owners in the private sector. They should be assigned tasks that normally get paid for with public money such as grafitti removal.
    So no, it didnt seem to be working.

  • Comment number 95.

    Haha, this is going to be funny, I shall enjoy all the ill-informed "prisons are holiday camps", and "the only deterrent is to hang them high" comments from the tabloid reading types, it shall keep me amused.

    Maybe, just maybe, within all the nonsensical comments someone will have actually done some research.

    I'm a dreamer I know.....

  • Comment number 96.

    I recently had to do 4 weeks of work (160 hours) at a recycling plant, oh and the crime i committed , being unemployed!!!!

  • Comment number 97.

    69. At 01:09am on 03 Sep 2010, devilzadvacate1

    Why thanks for agreeing with my rational approach! Have to say, if your 'think' harder you may find yourself agreeing with everything I have to say! ;-) Only because I am "I"

  • Comment number 98.

    46. At 4:56pm on 02 Sep 2010, virtualsilverlady wrote:
    ////34 The Ghosts of John Galt

    It seems you are against any attempt to save the taxpayers £27000 per year per prisoner by finding other methods of punishment apart from keeping them locked up.

    Some do see work as a form of punishment hence so many trying to avoid it and none of us live to work we only work to live.////

    How do you possibly arrive at such a conclusion from any comment I have ever made on any subject?? odd

    And how does work, as a form of punishment, in anyway contribute toward making 'work' a positive action or positive achievement? One must invest one's self esteem in that which is perceived as positive to one's self - but you would have people make a negative association with work as a form of punishment!!!! what a strange idea!

  • Comment number 99.

    Yes and is an ideal way to ensure that those who commit minor offences give something back to the community. However it is not without problems. Im my job i work regularly with 'community payback' when we need painting/cleaning/digging/ weeding jobs done on estates. However, it can be difficult to get the people to 'do' jobs they do not like. On the other hand, where we need work done- painting an old peoples' home for example, the residents don't trust the people near their homes as they think they are crooks!

    I personally think that community payback is a good idea.

  • Comment number 100.

    When the sun is shinning it seems to be a nice way to pass the day, as to punishment YOU HAVE TO BE JOCKEING


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