Letter: Community service used to treat offenders as people

Baroness Wootton d’Abinger © Getty

What an important point Harold Mozley makes about the humiliation of offenders in community service (Letters, January 22).

Community sentences involving unpaid work that benefits people and organizations in the community were introduced in the UK in 1972 after six years of global research by the Wootton Committee. The cleverly crafted new phrase was seen as encompassing the classic dimensions of punishment, reparation and rehabilitation. Offenders had to give their time to work for the community. Careful selection of projects and pairing of offenders provided new skills and values, working alongside community members.

Program recipients viewed offenders as people and appreciated the work they did, and the offenders themselves received positive affirmation. As the first community service organizer for Staffordshire (1974-78), I saw the sense of value that developed from the programme.

Unfortunately, these elements have been lost as the public and political outcry is driven by the desire for punishment and retaliation. The grip of probation on the regime has loosened in the dogma of privatization and we have lost the impact of defending human rights in criminal justice.

Where are the rehabilitation and the compassion in the treatment of offenders now? Where is the political courage to consider policies that reflect an understanding of the impact of social divisions on the attitudes and behavior of those at the bottom?

Roger Statham
Former Chief Probation Officer, Teesside
Wass, North Yorkshire, UK

Jill E. Washington