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


Grogipher said...

The only other time I have heard such a ridiculous argument was from, at the risk of invoking Godwin's Law, from a Nazi. He stood in my seat in 2005 it must have been - the last Westminster by election. He said that Prisoners should all wear uniforms like that with little badges on to denote their type of crime. I jest not.

The sooner that the Tories and Labour learn that to fix society we have to include everyone rather than worsen the demonisation of certain groups the better. Of course, our view will be attacked for being 'soft' on criminals - I don't want them to be let off Scot free, but still, if we want to solve the ills of the criminal justice system we need to put the pitchforks down and think more logically.

I do not see what my local Labour party see in this Mr Baker. I've attempted to work with him on a number of occaisions as he is one of my elected representatives - but have received nothing but abuse the one time he bothered to even acknowledge my existance.

Indygal said...

I thought for a minute you were saying the last time you'd heard as ridiculous an argument as mine lol. Baker - I have no good experiences of either and if you look at what he said as president of the NUS compared to what he says now, he displays a complete inability to hold true to any principles. Bad language, bad language :-)

Grogipher said...

Haha I wouldn't be quite that cruel my dear.

Funnily enough the one time he replied (with abuse) was the time I quoted him back something he'd said about free education when he was NUS President. He was far too defensive - methinks he knows he's in the wrong there.

Stuart Winton said...

But surely an element of humiliation (or perhaps stigma, to use a term more often associated with this context) is necessary for any set of rules and enforcement to work?

Perhaps the thinking demonstrated by yourself and grogipher is symptomatic of the problem rather than the solution; punishment doesn't work so well these days because it's less of a stigma than it was?