Community service is actually not called community service any more, it is called community payback! Community payback, what a joke! We have spent quite a while now talking to people who have recently spent long periods of time doing just this in Cheshire, England.
So what exactly is community payback? Well in the summer it is basically comprised of strimming and cutting grass in graveyards in which no-one is actually buried any more. This is not so bad, you are moving and it gets the day gone quickly, you get to see a lot of graveyards and actually occasionally help someone find the grave of a lost relative etc. The thing is this generally done in areas which have plenty of money but the council can save a fortune by getting convicts to do it for them, no wonder the courts are so quick to sentence people to community payback eh!
From what we have learnt by the way we need to be clear here, the actual supervisors are all pretty cool, they are there to do a job and in many cases the people they are working with can be less than helpful but generally if you are cool with them they are cool with you. There are rules which we will come back to later but if you are hardworking (within limits) then they will relax the rules, you may get to make the odd phone call or listen to your mp3’s.
The rules. Ok, while on site you are not allowed to leave for any reason, you can’t go to the shop or have Dominos deliver a pizza, nothing like that. Why? You will love this! Apparently a number of years ago a guy nipped into the local shop while wearing his community payback high visibility vest and stole his lunch while on camera, you have to love that but it did spoil it for the rest of the guys for many years to come. You must not be under the influence of of drugs or booze but again, that’s like any job really
You don’t have to work too hard but you do have to look like you are working hard enough. You must always wear a high visibility vest which says “community payback” on the back. You must do as you are told. You must do your time, if not you will “breach” and be sent back to court, be given more hours or sent to prison, but if sent to prison you may still have to do your payback hours when you get out. There are more but let’s move on.
The thing with payback is that it’s not the work which is the punishment, it’s the time out of your life and your inconvenience. If you work five days a week you will have to give up one of your free days for a long time, if you are out of work you have to give up five days. If you are young and unemployed there are courses you can do, you can get certificates and forklift licenses, but if you are over thirty and employed well then it’s just your time they want. If you are there during the winter things are tougher; they have a depot where park benches are brought in which have stood in the elements for ten years, they are sanded down by hand and repainted, no tools just a block and sandpaper. That is tough!
If you have good collection of tracksuits and limited options in life then this isn’t such a bad one, it sure beats the hell out of prison, although if you have a prison record already then it may be better to do a month of bird rather than nine months of community payback. My viewpoint is that I value my freedom too much to sit in prison but others may differ. We met one traveler guy who had just got out of jail a month ago and was on community payback again and was to appear in court the week after and would probably go down again, it’s all a matter of perspective.
No not really but it may be meant a a short, sharp shock. The question is does it fit the purpose? Here at Slur we are not sure, what do you think?
Related posts are here:the British legal lottery
This is how it is right now. This year it is going to be privatized. It will be a profit thing! Read about this soon in part two, plus an interview with a convict!