Tuesday 3 March 2009

Tell Us Something We Don’t Know…

The credibility of community sentences is at stake because offenders who breach the orders are not dealt with firmly enough, a study says.

Experts from King's College London examined Community Orders and Suspended Sentence Orders, which were introduced in England and Wales four years ago.

They require offenders to do unpaid work or undergo rehabilitation.

But a probation officer interviewed for the study said those under the orders left court "laughing their heads off".
Really? Well, you could knock me down with a feather...
One probation officer said breaches were not dealt with seriously enough and "that gives completely the wrong message.

"You go to court for a breach and you don't get sent to prison, you go back on the van next week and all your mates tell everybody else about it. It doesn't have the deterrent effect that it's meant to have."
That’s because virtually nothing is a ‘deterrent’ anymore.

The criminal justice system is working for itself (the lawyers, judges, public sector support staff, etc) and not for the public.
The most commonly suggested improvement to SSOs was that offenders who breached them should be sent to prison.
One officer said: "I know prisons are full, but they're full with the wrong people. We need to send out the message that if you've got a suspended sentence and you breach it, you go to prison."
The wrong people…? I wonder who he means….
Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London, said as the rise in prison numbers coincided with increased use of community sentences, there was little evidence to suggest the latter was a solution to the former.

He also said there was some confusion over non-custodial sentences, as on the one hand there are community orders, which are not an alternative to custody, and suspended sentencing orders which are.

Mr Garside said the government had introduced a raft of new sentencing rules and that it was up to them to take the lead in how these are put into practice.
He told the BBC: "There is some evidence to suggest that some magistrates are confused about the different types of sentence and how they should be used.
We’ve often heard from this chap about how it’s all the government’s fault for meddling with the system and making it more complex (and he does have a point).

But it transpires that even he doesn’t know what happens on these alternatives to punishment. Credit where it’s due, he’s asked to find out, if any of his regulars can arrange it.

But how many more are like this, oblivious of the effectiveness of the sentence, and simply going through the motions of doling out government-mandated orders each day?

It seems the criminals have the measure of the useless Probation ‘Service’ too:
Offenders who were interviewed reported a good relationship with probation officers with one describing them as like a "police officer, Jobcentre worker and social worker" rolled into one. Another said their role was "a bit like a guardian angel".
But not for the people that actually pay their wages. Oh, no.

Only for those who provide them with employment; the criminals. Let’s face it, it isn’t in their interests, really, to ensure that they go straight, is it?

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