Crime and punishment

Now that the riots of earlier in the week seem to have fizzled out there has been endless talk about what now. Most of this rhetoric has been about who to blame and how to punish the offenders. Callers to radio talk shows are keen to string em all up or at least ship em out to Afghanistan with nothing but their hoodies and stolen trainers.

The prime minister has declared it to be the fault of the police and the police blame cuts. Parents have come under fire for not being able to discipline their little darlings and the rest of us tut about society break down and the youth of today.

In today’s Guardian G2 Alexander Chancellor declares that teachers should shoulder the responsibility and that parents should, ‘somehow be coerced into siding with schools.’ Good luck with that and don’t forget to tune into Thursday evening’s #ukedchat on Twitter to see what real teachers think.

My local Co-op. Business as usual.

So who is to blame? I think we all need to take some responsibility here. Much as I’d like to blame everything on the government (and believe my teeth are gritted as I write that sentence ), as I wrote in my previous post before everything had really kicked off across the country, many factors have come into play. We all need to take responsibility be we parents, educators, politicians or ordinary folk about our daily business.

I also think we need to think carefully about the punishments the guilty receive. Custodial punishment needs to coupled with proper rehabilitation and restorative justice. Lock em up and throw away the key is really not going to work in the long run. I’d like to see those involved in looting working activitely. This might be cleaning up, working at the youth centre, shopping for old folk or digging flower beds. I’d also like to see them listening to those affected by what‘s happened. I think there is a view that stealing is a victimless crime but it’s important to understand how many lives have been turned upside down as people have lost their hard-won business (and all business that are still standing after the recession are hard-won) or their homes. I’d like to see looters listening to old folk who are scared to go out of their homes, families that are moving out of their homes because their afraid for their own safety and business owners and workers who are now unemployed and struggling. I’d also like to see the looters and arsonists come face to face with the guy who watched his family furniture shop that had stuff for five generations first burn and then be demolished. 

So let’s stop pointing the finger at each other and accept responsibility. It’s up to all of us to make sure this doesn’t happen again.  Are you listening Mr. Cameron?





9 Responses to Crime and punishment

  1. mcneilio1 says:

    ‘So let’s stop pointing the finger at each other and accept responsibility.’ Agree completely. The role of parents, educators, the state, and those who rioted themselves are all a part of it. The left blame spending cuts, the right blame ‘political correctness’ and the ‘liberal agenda’, the government blames the police, the police blame the government, the parents blame teachers and teachers blame parents. The looters blame society, normally. Madness.

    • citizenr says:

      We’re very good at blaming other people (I know I am!) but I sometimes wish that politicians would stop point scoring and pull together in situations like this. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Patrick says:

    Lock em up and throw away the key is really not going to work in the long run.” It won’t even work in the short run! Our jails are full, and frankly sending the disaffected and disenfranchised to jail where they can learn new criminal skills is criminal itself. Similarly, anyone who says National Service is the answer needs their head examined: teach them to use weapons and face the enemy… Great idea!

    If jail offered opportunities for rehabilitation, that would be different. If we had a way to uses the disruptive, destructive energy for positive, productive purposes, think what those rioters could achieve! I believe some sort of community service if needed, but I don’t know what.

    The rioters clearly have a lot of skills. We must be able to work out how to put them to society’s benefit.

    I agree with you whole heartedly. Society is to blame – and that means us.

  3. Great post – and this little passage made me think:

    “I’d also like to see them listening to those affected by what‘s happened. I think there is a view that stealing is a victimless crime but it’s important to understand how many lives have been turned upside down as … ”

    Our government (the last one too but the libcons are more blatant) try to make cuts and privatisation look like victimless crimes by calling them ‘efficiency and choice’. But they aren’t. There are direct victims, and then, later, indirect victims. (As you well know of course).

    In a corporate-responsibility structure, if I gave my workers insufficient training, or turned a blind eye to blatant steady adoption of a culture of worrying nature, I’d be responsible… unless my name was Murdoch, natch.

    So, yes, teachers, parents, all of us to blame – but I think we’ve (some actively, some passively) created a machine that these young people have every right to rage against. Their world IS insane. How can those who wrecked our financial system and live in huge houses with every material wish met be deserving of bonuses and 16 year olds who’ve managed to maintain a spark of hope and good intention in the darkest of circumstances not be deserving of support that allows them to continue education without having to be criticised for ‘scrounging’ yet another means-tested benefit?

    How can we let our leaders spout forth about “not paying for other people’s children” when they cut housing benefit and axe universal child benefit when it’s so blatantly obvious that every child is part of the future of our society, and it doesn’t matter who birthed them, we all suffer or gain from their input.

    There is no coherence in our current system of ‘rights and responsibilities’. Those who have been boiling in the pot the least time are the most able to see it. Gregory Bateson talked about the ‘insanity triangle’ – when there is no coherence in a system between 2 parties (in this case society/state and these young people) you can just challenge it. One on one.

    But when a third party (the rest of us) reinforces the insanity by acting as though the incoherent is coherent the victim (in this case the young person/people) only has 3 choices: entirely cast aside their own understanding and become crazy in the same way as the original incoherence, have a complete psychotic break and shift all meanings to a new level where the incoherence is merely a code or rage, rage, rage against the incoherence.

    That our young people don’t all have the executive reflection to do this in a safer, less criminal fashion is just a fact of biology. (Most folk don’t get full brain development until their early to mid 20s).

    And of course almost nobody with an official voice – a space in the media, a well-respected blog, a platform of any kind – has ever experienced both anger and total hopelessness about their personal situation. We’ve all had difficulties, but almost none of us at this level.

    Your ‘deletion’ is exactly the expression of the insanity. “Society is broken, lets delete the people who were most directly involved in fixing it.”

    ps apologies for long post! But you got me thinking 🙂

  4. Dean says:

    You didn’t mention the 6 people killed. You are right about culpability though…but you didn’t mention the looters .. as a parent I cannot see how I can be responsible. My daughter has a responsible job overseas. My son wouldn’t hurt a fly let alone someone defending his shop. Sorry you may beat your chest, But leave mine alone.

    • citizenr says:

      Thanks for your comments. I didn’t mention those who died. I didn’t feel able to comment because it’s too horrific. My point about parents (as well as the rest of us) is that we need to do our bit. You’ve done your bit by raising your own children to be responsible citizens. If only all parents did.

  5. Tim says:

    Spot on. What has been apparent in the authorities’ response to the events of last week is that everyone is quick to apportion blame and no one is willing to accept any shred of (a) blame or (b) responsibility for moving things forward. I wrote something very similar last week – great minds and all that! 😉

    While I do believe it is right to punish offenders, care must be taken to address both the causes of the rioting and looting, not just the symptoms. If anyone saw the three kids interviewed ‘anonymously’ on Sky News last week who showed such utter disregard for authority or a sense of right and wrong, this only served to underline just how wide a gap there is between political rhetoric and what actually encourages or discourages young people from the kind of behaviour we witnessed. Much though our politicians would like to package up solutions in simple, media-friendly soundbites, any sane person will surely realise that it is more complex than just evicting a few families and taking away people’s rights to use social media. Puh-lease.

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