VitalSpark Coalition Blog

Posted: 18 February 2010, in Blog

Two things have recently caught my eye.

Mark Thomas, comedian and fully paid up member of the awkward squad, has been asking his audiences for suggestions for a “People’s Manifesto” of new political policies. The evidence so far is a contrary combination of vicious bloody intolerance – e.g. supporting the death penalty for minor offenders and minor celebrities plus a remarkable, uplifting, counterbalancing, anti – establishment, humorous liberalism.

Thomas has spoken of how inventive people can be when it comes to justice, humiliation and punishment. I agree, having recently heard a victim of outrageous public vulgarity advocate internment camps on a re-contaminated Gruinard.

Meanwhile, our Royal Mile Tribunes have been squabbling over offenders who can’t or won’t comply with their community service orders.  The “debate” is the usual zero sum thing.

How about a social enterprise remedy?

The Problem.

1.    Imprisonment costs about £36k a year pp pa. This is too dear, prisons are full and jails are our most efficient universities (of crime). It’s counterproductive to send our minor felons there. Everyone knows this.


2.    Criminal justice workers try and get the social economy sector and others to pick up the pieces and develop “positive destinations” for our offenders. The system is semi – dysfunctional because significant numbers of people don’t comply and the various stakeholders seem powerless to do much about it.  


3.    The current system does not entirely deliver, is in political and public disrepute and recidivism is palpable.


4.    The system is based on offenders spending time expressed in hours on community restitution.

  1. The upbringing, environmental and educational experiences of your average anti-social citizen might indicate some degree of causality in relation to their behaviour and intimate that these people are possibly victims too. Difficult one eh?

The Solution.

1.    Don’t sentence in time – sentence in categorised tasks proportionate to the offence from an approved list. “Time” does not work outside gaol.


2.    Categorise the physicality and demanding nature of tasks.  Category A equals light work, category B medium level work and Category C equals arduous work.


3.    Sentence is complete only when an outcome has been achieved.


4.    Employ social enterprises (not councils) to manage the sentence. Pay them from savings recovered from other budgets – social enterprises would contract on a profit-making basis.


5.    Have PDP exit strategies prepared for every offender with a delivery plan agreed with the court and business partners of the managing social enterprise.


Or then again, do we encourage social entrepreneurs to scale up a version of something like the Kibble model in every LA area in Scotland because the problem is also about the education and care of our offenders?

Anyone else got any ideas?