10 February 2006


Clarke plan to make criminals do more hard labour

By Bob Roberts Deputy Political Editor

CRIMINALS doing forced labour will help to build Britain's 2012 Olympic stadium, it was announced yesterday.

The modern-day chain gangs will wear uniforms bearing the logo Community Payback.

They will be put to work on many other projects, including cleaning up parks, removing graffiti and restoring old buildings.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke said he wanted a massive expansion in the number of offenders forced to work in the community instead of going to jail.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We hope this will include an important contribution towards the work necessary to prepare for the Olympic games."

Mr Clarke said tough, physical labour would act as more of a deterrent to crime than going to jail.

He added: "Unpaid work is the core to it all. If you have to work rather than hang around in a prison cell, it is tougher. It will be a frightening thing."

Offenders currently do around five million hours of unpaid work in the community, usually in low-profile schemes. Mr Clarke wants this doubled to 10 million hours by 2011, with all offenders wearing uniforms.

The five-year strategy is aimed at reducing the overall numbers in prison.

There will also be a new punishment of "day fines". Offenders will be fined a number of days' work instead of a financial amount in a bid to make punishments hurt the wealthy as well as the poor.

But Shadow Home Secretary David Davis told the Commons that the plans would do nothing to stop the "massive problem" of violent crime.

He said: "The public at large are not protected from a criminal who receives a non-custodial sentence.

Dee Edwards, of Mothers Against Murder and Aggression, said: "Prison works - it works for me and it works for the public."

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "To make this vision more than just a dream he (Mr Clarke) must fund community solutions to crime."

Lib Dem spokesman Lynne Featherstone said: "An intensive community sentence can be far more demanding than sitting in prison watching TV."