From ePolitix's news feed, which I am finding remarkably clear and to the point and an ample resource for posts on this blog. I found a report on the comments made by the Justice minister David Hanson [uhmm-bop, anyone? ok, cheap shot. Sorry]
"Tough community sentences can be more effective in reducing crime than a short spell in prison..."
The concept goes that because all of our prisons are full to bursting like some deranged criminalised 'Where's Wally?' Or indeed, 'Where's the prison guard?' The government is panicking and beginning (or continuing) to try and convince everyone that actually, contrary to history's use of prisons for things such a fraud etc. Prison usage should only be for the most serious and violent crimes. In reality, all that needs to happen, is for the 'lesser' prisoners - even though they have committed a crime - do do a bit of unpaid(?) labour for a bit and be told how bad they are.
The natural flaw in the plan, if you can call it that, from my eyes is the environment. A classically supposed benefit for prisons is the fact that by being in prison for a stint you escape the environment to which resulted in your criminality. I can't see this happening with this initiative. And even though prisons themselves are a bit of a den of evil at the moment, at least they are a change and give the individual another look at life.
For the suggested idea to work, that is community service as opposed to prison sentences, the criminal should be forced to move to another area of the country. As long as the person is not perceived to be violent would it not be better to remove them from their friends, deny the chance to use the Internet or a mobile phone (at least for the short term) and have specific jobs set up in partnership with businesses (organised by the government) which begins a rehabilitation process.
All this would cost money.
The government has no money.
So instead what we have here is a failure of a plan. The worst of all situations. The prisons are failing as they are full. The release of prisoners into community service is simply going to do nothing to rehabilitate or indeed dissuade the majority of criminals from reaffending.
Community care, or indeed care in the community, is a golden tightrope. Both expensive and falls on its face so very easily. The problem is now, that it has become the normal solution to any appropriate problem and even though it has the chance to do some good institutionalisation tends towards being the cheaper and utilitarian best for the people involved.