Saturday, 3 January 2009
"Humiliation - the harder you try the dumber you look"
I have a feeling that few will agree with what I'm about to say but I'm gonna say it anyway. This idea from Labour MSP Richard "Little Lord Fontleroy" Baker, that convicted criminals doing community service should be wearing high visibility vests so we can all see them, I find just a tad distasteful. Personally I don't think I'm soft on criminals, I just think we approach tackling the problem the wrong way. Focusing on punishment and retribution (as we do) might make us feel like we're taking control but if it doesn't work (and it doesn't) we're kidding ourselves. I appreciate that we have to have deterrents and we have to have some form of punishment and I agree with all of that.
But surely what we want from any criminal justice system is for a continual reduction in crime and greater protection for our people and our communities. And that means we either have to lock up all CONVICTED criminals forever or we have to find ways of persuading them not to commit further crimes. Rehabilitation will never be achieved if we purposely set out to humiliate people.
How do YOU feel when someone publicly humiliates you? You feel angry and unless you have constructive ways to express that anger, most people will harbour a grudge and one day it all comes out. I can hear some of you now "well if they don't want to be humiliated they shouldn't commit crimes in the first place" but where does that attitude get us? And what BENEFIT do WE gain from ridiculing people?
Slopping out dehumanised prisoners - if you can't treat people humanely, you can't expect them to behave any differently. High visibility vests is not exactly dehumanising but it IS degrading and it IS humiliating. It's a stupid idea and I sincerely hope nobody takes it seriously!
PS The quote is from an American Sociologist Larry Kersten